If a former tenant is overstaying their rental period or your property is being lived in by unwanted guests, it can be difficult to deal. Here is a guide on how to handle the situation and how to protect yourself. First, it’s important to understand that there are different types of squatters. Most people assume squatters are homeless people looking for shelter but that is not always the case. By definition, squatters are people who move into abandoned, foreclosed or unoccupied homes or premises. They can be anything from previous tenants who are no longer under a lease and have stopped paying rent but continue to live on the property, families or those whose mortgage was foreclosed but have not moved out after a determined amount of time, those who move in after a tenant moves out and are not bound by a lease or paying rent or, in extreme cases, those who have been paying rent to a fake landlord and are living on another’s property unknowingly. Squatters who manipulate the system will typically place utilities in their name, get mail at the property’s address and openly take possession of the unit or property.
Squatters vs. Trespassers
Second, when it comes to squatters rights you must first understand that a squatter is different than a trespasser. A trespasser is one who breaks windows or doors to gain entry. They do not have utilities or furniture that convey they are living on the premises nor have they ever had a lease. Often times squatters are evicted from a property for violating loitering or trespassing laws but because some are aware of the loopholes, if they can provide evidence of tenant rights or gain adverse possession, they may have grounds for remaining on the property. Police have no way of knowing if documents are falsely prepared, so when they are presented with documentation like utility bills, they are unable to remove the squatter which is why owners find themselves in court to get them off their property. Understanding the squatting laws in your area and how to protect your property will be of great benefit to you.
Manipulation of Tenants Rights
Third, every state has different laws concerning squatters and tenants but most don’t give rights to squatters. Tenants however, do have rights and it is with this knowledge that squatters will present themselves as tenants in order to occupy property. A tenant is someone who pays rent and has permission to live on the property. Rent can be considered paid through a variance of ways, one of which is payment through labor. If a squatter makes repairs to improve the property this can be an argument that they are paying rent thus claiming tenancy. Even words exchanged between you and the squatter can be of benefit to them as they can be construed as a verbal contract between the two of you. Also, be aware that though you are the owner of the property, if you enter on your property while squatters are present you could be at risk of legal charges against you. Squatters posing as tenants will be treated with tenants rights.
Advice on Removing Squatters
Furthermore, when looking to remove squatters and protect your property it is in your best interest to not have any contact with them and pursue your legal rights. The longer a squatter takes residency on your property the more leverage they have to claim tenancy. It may require more of you financially to pursue this route but in the long run you are losing income from potential legal renters. When going to court you will want to file an eviction action and depending on where you live, you may need to file a repossession claim to show ownership established by the courts. Calling the police to help remove a squatter is always a worthwhile option. They can’t always remove the squatter but it’s worth a try as some squatters don’t want to deal with the hassle and will choose to leave. In addition to this, a filed report will provide evidence if you later decide to take it to court. Other options, outside of seeking a legal route, is to hire a professional eviction service. Removing squatters on your own comes with liability risks but a professional service can help you to avoid these as well as take care of your squatter problem. Your local law enforcement should be able to give you information on reputable services.
Protecting Your Property Against Squatters
Lastly, if you own property you will want to take protective measures to avoid squatters living on it. The best way to ensure this is to always be aware of activity around your homes premises. If you don’t live close enough to check in on your home it would be wise to hire a property management company to keep an eye on things. Placing no trespassing signs or installing an alarm are helpful ways to keep squatters away. A squatter cannot claim possession if they are not able to make it their own so finding ways to steer them away from your property is key. Keeping all access points secure is imperative. Remember, a trespasser is one who forces entry. If a potential squatter breaks in, it will be easier for you to have them removed. Every state determines a certain amount of time that a squatter has to occupy a property before they can claim it as their own. Understanding the squatting laws in your area and how to protect your property will be an asset to you as an owner.