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Legal Dilemma: Man’s Castle Or Woman’s Home?

By Jack Douglas Jr., CBS 11 Investigative Producer
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MURPHY (CBSDFW.COM) – All Aji Philip wanted to do was sell her Collin County home so she could move back to Boston and care for her ailing mother.

A nurse who sleeps in the day and works at night, Aji moved out of her house earlier in the year, with hopes of selling it fast.

But when that did not happen, she took her realtor’s advice and hired what’s called a “staging” company to refurnish the home and bring a family in to live there temporarily, until it sells.

The purpose: To give the place a warm, lived-in look that would be more appealing to prospective buyers.

“It actually sounded like a fantastic idea,” Aji told CBS 11 News.

At first, all went well. Then the sprinkler broke.

Aji said when she sent her brother-in-law over to fix it “he noticed a vicious pit bull … it actually charged at him.”

“There are supposed to be no dogs on the property,” she said.

After that, Aji said, she noticed a truck parked in her yard, leaking oil on the grass. And then religious crosses started appearing on her lawn, one 10 feet tall, she said.

“I’m a Christian as well, but I don’t have to advertise it. The home needs to be neutral ground,” Aji said.

Besides, she told her new tenants, the crosses broke HOA rules in her neighborhood and had to come down.

Their response: “They threatened us, and they said they were going to go to the Department of Justice and file a religious complaint.”

Aji said she wanted the tenants –– two brothers and several of their family members –– out of her house, prompting the company that put them there, Castle Keepers of Dallas, to seek an eviction order.

So everyone moved out — except for Nathan Burgess, the father of the two brothers.

It doesn’t matter, Burgess told CBS 11, that he wasn’t expected to be in the home in the first place. He was “invited” by his sons, he said, before the eviction order came down.

“Sometimes, I’ve learned, you can’t run from things. You just have to hit em head on,” Burgess said.

He said he would have likely moved out with the rest of his family if Aji and Castle Keepers had been nice about it.

“They call and said, ‘Oh, you have a dog on the property.’ Ever since then, the level of abuse has gotten worse and worse,” Burgess said.

Now, he added, it’s gotten personal, and he plans to appeal even if an eviction hearing in the near future ends with him being told – again – that he has to get out of the house.

Meanwhile, local police and the constable’s office in Murphy, north of Dallas, tell CBS 11 that Texas law allows Burgess to stay in the home until formal eviction proceedings play out.

And, if Aji tries to go onto the property and refuses to leave, they will have no choice but to arrest her.

She continues to pay the mortgage, the insurance and the HOA fees. Yet, “I can’t go onto my property. There’s nothing I can do to that property to really reclaim it or save it from these people who have really taken it hostage,” Aji said.

Kenny Raupple, owner of Castle Keepers, said he is doing everything lawfully possible in trying to vacate Aji’s home.

“With regard to whether we put the wrong people into the house, the people who are on the lease I don’t think are bad people,” Raupple told CBS 11. He said the company thoroughly checked out the family whose names are on the “staging” agreement.

“I think people outside of the tenants we put in that property are the ones causing the problems,” Raupple added.

And what about plans to sell the home?

Well, that’s on hold as well after a realtor went in with a prospective buyer.

“There was a sign or a note in the house that says … the house was occupied and to not disturb anything in the house and do not touch anything. Leave the windows as they were,” said Robin Everly, the listing agent for Aji’s home.

Everly said she had a police escort when she went to gather up the For Sale sign and the lock boxes at the residence. “I was not comfortable having agents in the home … for fear of what might happen,” she said.

Asked if a police escort was really necessary, Burgess replied: “You need to ask them. If they say something, let me know.”

If you want to reach Jack Douglas Jr. with a news tip, you can email him at jdouglas@cbs.com

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