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Landlords, Worried About Squatters?

Here's What You Need to Know & Do to Protect Your Property

by Emily Koelsch

Landlords, Worried About Squatters? Here’s What You Need to Know & Do to Protect Your Property

There’s been lots of news recently about squatters’ rights and the impact they can have on Landlords. Squatters can be a major headache and expense for Landlords because it’s difficult to remove them from a property once they’ve occupied it. 

That said, there are things Landlords can do to protect themselves and their rental properties from squatters. With that in mind, here’s a look at the risks squatters present for Landlords and how you can minimize them. 

Protect your property

What Is a Squatter? 

First, it’s helpful to understand what a squatter is and how a squatter is different from a typical trespasser. A squatter is a person who enters a property without permission with the intent to occupy the property.

A squatter is different from a typical trespasser because they enter with the intent of claiming ownership or claiming the right to live in the property. In contrast, a trespasser enters a property without permission with no intention of occupying it. 

Squatters are difficult to deal with because in most states squatters have rights once they enter and occupy a property. 

What Are Squatters’ Rights? 

Once a squatter claims ownership of a property, Landlords can’t remove them without proper eviction notice and process. Squatters can gain legal ownership of a property through adverse possession when they occupy it for extended periods – anywhere from seven to twenty years, depending on state laws

While adverse possession is uncommon and not a major concern for most Landlords, squatters’ rights are something that many Landlords deal with. While a squatter might not have a legal right to be in your property, it can still be difficult to remove them. 

squatters rights

Here’s what Landlords should do if they find a squatter in a vacant property: 

  1. Call the police. The property owner should never use force or threaten force to remove a squatter. Instead, have law enforcement come to the property, ask the squatter to leave, and complete a police report. While the squatter may not leave, you will have documentation that you took action and can begin the process of removing the squatter.
  2. The next step is filing an unlawful detainer action. Because procedural requirements vary from state to state, you should contact a local attorney to guide you through this process. Generally, the procedure is: 
    1. The property owner files an unlawful detainer action.
    2. The squatter is served with an official eviction notice.
    3. If the squatter does not comply with this notice, an unlawful detainer lawsuit is filed and the parties will be summoned to court.
    4. If the squatter does not appear in court, the judge will rule in favor of the landlord.
    5. Once you have received a judgment, law enforcement will remove the squatter from the property. 

As with any eviction proceeding, the process is time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. Plus, Landlords can’t rent or maintain the property until the squatter is removed. Given the rights that squatters have, Landlords should be proactive about preventing them from entering a property. 

Tips for Preventing Squatters

The good news is that there are things property owners can do to prevent squatters from occupying a vacant property. Whenever you have a vacant rental unit you should: 

  • Keep all windows, doors, and gates closed and locked
  • Install an alarm system or cameras
  • Keep the property in good condition. This includes maintaining the yard, getting the mail, and removing flyers from the door
  • Check on the property regularly
  • Install lighting and motion-activated lights
  • Make it look like the property is occupied. Keep a light on, keep blinds and windows closed, and be cautious about putting a For Rent sign in the yard. 
  • Park an extra car in the driveway or ask a neighbor to park in the driveway. 

Squatters target properties that look vacant, neglected, or abandoned. By keeping your property in good condition and making it appear occupied, you can significantly reduce the risk of squatters.

Visit ezLandlordForm for Eviction Notices & Landlord Advice

Hopefully, you can avoid the headaches that come with squatters. But, if you do need to evict a squatter, we can help. ezLandlordForms has state-specific eviction forms and resources. Visit ezLandlordForms.com or chat with our team to get the forms and support you need.

 


Emily Koelsch, ezLandlordForms Contributing Writer

Emily Koelsch WriterEmily Koelsch is a freelance writer and blogger, who primarily writes about business, real estate, and technology.

 


 

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