When House Rules sisters Mikaela and Eliza jetted into New Zealand to take part in a surfing competition a few years ago, they had no idea what they'd return home to.
The girls, who were just 20 and 17 at the time, discovered squatters had taken over their Sydney apartment – and were refusing to leave.
"The real estate agent called us and said people were smoking and doing drugs in our apartment," Mikaela, 24, reveals. "We freaked out – we had no idea what was going on."
The squatters caused so much damage to the girls' home, they were forced to borrow money from their grandparents for repairs.
They also had to bribe them $5000 to vacate the premises, and spent the next 18 months paying back the loan.
"I'm sure there were smarter options at the time, but we were freaking out," Mikaela explains.
Eliza, 21, adds: "It felt like the only option, we didn't get any advice. I feel like we've experienced so much already. It was definitely a learning curve!"
Despite the financial burden caused by the squatters, Mikaela and Eliza signed up to House Rules to try help their recently-divorced mum.
Renovating the family home where she lives, the girls are hoping to give her a 'fresh start' after her split from their father.
"We are on this show for mum," Eliza says. "And that's what we will have in our hearts the whole time while we are renovating."
House Rules airs Sunday, 7pm, and Monday to Wednesday, 7.30pm, Channel Seven.