An American family returned home after a Christmas holiday to find their locks had been changed after a squatter took over their house.

Janice Henson tried to enter her home in Georgia in the US last week after a short break away when a man in a wheelchair came to the door and told her to leave.

The man, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Nathaniel Nuckols, told the stunned homeowner the house now belonged to him.

"He also left us notes thanking us for the key and thanking us for letting him live here, and it was his house now," Ms Henson told WSBTV Channel 2.

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"He moved all the pictures, emptied drawers. He was making this house his."

Nuckols said he had a gun and threatened to shoot police officers who arrived at the scene after the distressed family called emergency services.

That threat led to a five-hour stand-off between cops and the squatter, although he eventually surrendered peacefully and was escorted from the premises.

Nuckols was charged with first-degree burglary, terrorist threats and acts, and wilful obstruction of a law enforcement officer and is being held in Cobb County Jail.

Henson and her family are staying in a hotel for now until their home is tidied up after the intrusion.

She said all the food in the home had been devoured and that drawers had been emptied out and furniture moved around.

The front door was also battered down during the stand-off with police.

The case might sound far-fetched, but last year a similar case occurred right in our own backyard.

In late October, Sydney property developer Bill Gertos ended up scoring a free US$1.7 million home by simply moving in and renting it out following the death of the occupant.

The NSW Supreme Court ended up ruling in favour of Mr Gertos in the bizarre squatter's rights case, which was brought by the daughter and grandchildren of the deceased owner.

The house at 6 Malleny Street in Ashbury was purchased by Henry Thompson Downie in 1927, who lived there with his children before the family moved to Ashfield just before WWII.