People taking over your property and living there as if the property belongs to them might seem like something out of a western movie, but it is very much a real thing that can happen to any landlord today. Hence, landlords need to be aware of the laws to evict squatters when needed.
You might imagine squatters to be outlaws that have forcefully taken over your property and are refusing to leave. But the concept of squatters has changed over the years. Squatters in the modern, law-regulated world can be disgruntled tenants or friends who just want to live for free on your property.
That’s right – the tenants you rent to can also become squatters.
Though this situation is quite rare, that makes it quite difficult for the landlords to deal with. Today, most landlords are not aware of how to deal with this kind of situation. The knowledge gap can lead to a huge loss of time, money, and, in some cases, property.
This is why we are here to share valuable information on how to get rid of squatters and some additional things you need to consider while doing so.
What Is a Squatter?
Before we can start with the process of removing a squatter from a property, let’s have a basic definition of what a squatter is. This will help all our readers to have a better understanding.
A squatter is an illegal occupant or a person who forcefully occupies property without the property owner’s consent or any legal obligation.
A squatter can come in different forms. They can be professional squatters who come to your property with the intention of taking it by force, an evicted tenant, or an innocent person who has fallen for a rental scam.
While squatting might be illegal under the law, one thing to note is that despite their illegal activity, they enjoy some rights under the law. And the law states that you can’t force them from their home; you need to evict them.
Surprisingly, if you don’t act fast and claim your property, a squatter can become the property owner legally.
Are Trespassers The Same As Squatters?
Most people might be getting confused about squatters being trespassers. However, the two terms are not the same.
When it comes to squatters, landlords have to consider tenant rights. But in the case of a trespasser, it can be a complaint against the trespasser for suspicious or criminal activity.
Here is how the two are different:
- Squatters: A squatter is an individual who finds an empty property and starts living there without the property owner’s consent. They claim ownership of the property by paying all the utility bills in their names. However, squatters don’t really own the property. They are seen as tenants, and to remove them, legal action is required.
- Trespassers: A trespasser is someone who enters the property without the owner’s permission. They are different from squatters because they do not claim the property. Just because they are not seen as tenants, does not mean they share any rights. Their activity on the property is considered illegal.
As you can see, there is a thin line between squatters and trespassers. If an individual is entering your property without any intention of owning it, they are trespassers, and legal action can be taken.
However, if an individual is staying at the property without permission, paying all the utility bills in their name, after a long period of time, they can eventually claim the property.
So, evicting a squatter is just a matter of time. The faster you move, the smoother the eviction process will be.
How To Get Rid Of Squatters
Squatters share the right with the tenants. So you cannot just kick them out because they are squatters. You need to take legal action and evict them legally.
If you end up in a situation where you find a squatter on your property, check with the legal professionals in your area to find out about the rights squatters enjoy and the laws around them.
That being said, here is what you should do when you find a squatter on your property.
Step 1: Call For The Police
The first step is to call the police. When you find someone living on your property without your permission or consent, you have every right to call the police. The police will then determine whether the individual is a trespasser or a squatter.
The police will most likely need proof that you own the house, and they will also spend time talking with the squatter to determine their status. Don’t get frustrated if the process takes time. As long as it may seem, it is a legal process that needs to be followed.
Step 2: Serve An Eviction Notice
If the police determine that the individual should be treated as a squatter, you will need to start the eviction process. This process starts with serving the squatter with an eviction notice. This is because a squatter is someone who is paying for everything but rent.
Hence, even though you don’t have a lease agreement with the person, you still have to evict them. This will put a legal document on the case and start to hold squatters responsible for their actions.
Serve the squatter with an eviction notice. Don’t delay any longer than it is necessary for the documents to arrive.
Step 3: File A Lawsuit
If the squatter doesn’t leave your property even after being served, you hold all the rights to file a civil lawsuit against them for using your property illegally.
Check your state and local laws for details on which court you will need to file the case. Once your due date comes, you are required to attend the eviction court hearing.
Step 4: Have The Squatters Removed
Once you have won the case, it doesn’t mean the squatter will leave your property on their own accord. Some insist until forceful action is taken.
However, this time you will have all the power, authority, and right to force them out of your property. You can show the papers to your local police officer and ask them to force them out.
Step 5: Handle Any Belongings Left Behind
When dealing with a squatter, you are most often left behind with their property. You might be tempted to sell their stuff or just throw them out of your property. Don’t do that. You are legally not allowed to do so.
The best course of action will be to do some research and see what action you can take with the abandoned squatter property. For instance, many state laws require you to keep their things for a set period of time. Afterward, you can file a case against the squatters and ask for reimbursement for taking care of their property.
Important Things to Avoid When Evicting Squatters
There is no way to sugarcoat your ways. If you’re fighting to remove a squatter from your property and have to file an unlawful detainer to get rid of them, it will be a lengthy legal process.
While the process is on its way, there are a few things you must avoid doing.
- Serve eviction notices rapidly.
- Don’t remove the squatter by yourself.
- Don’t be impatient with legal procedures.
You must understand that the only way to deal with illegal squatters is by following the steps above to avoid any additional delays in removing the squatter.
Squatter’s Rights Landlords Should Know
It is important that you know that squatters are not a thing in movies. They are real and are all around the US. Despite their being illegal occupants, they have some rights under United States law.
So, even if you are the rightful owner of the squatted property, you have to follow the legal process to remove them from your property. And this makes for a really frustrating experience for the property owners.
Squatters’ rights are also known as adverse possession. It is the law that protects the illegal occupants and makes them the owners of your property if they have stayed on the property long enough.
That being said, before a professional squatter can become the rightful owner, here are the things that they must fulfill.
- They must occupy the property illegally without permission from the property owner.
- The illegal owners must be physically living on the property.
- It needs to be apparent that the squatter is living there. That means neighbors have seen inside and outside of the property.
- The illegal occupant must inhabit the property for an extended period of time.
So, before the squatters meet all the requirements, take action and get them off your property.
As you can see from the items outlined above, dealing with squatters is a serious problem. What makes things worse is that, despite being an illegal occupants, they have rights that can make them the owner of your property.
So, instead of trying to remove them from the property after squatting, it is better to ensure they don’t have access to the property.
However, if they have already accessed the property, the right thing to do is to initiate the eviction process. This will give you a legal advantage and allow you to remove them from your property.
If you want to sell your rental property to us and finally get rid of the hassles and headaches, then get in touch and let us know about the property so we can make you an offer.