3 min read
January 22, 2020
Original Article can be found here.
A squatter is a person who unlawfully occupies an uninhabited property. A squatter may be:
A trespasser is someone who enters a property illegally. If the trespasser openly starts living there without permission, they become a squatter. Both squatting and trespassing are illegal — in most cases, trespassing is a criminal offense and squatting is a civil matter. Trespassing typically results in arrest, whereas squatting is often handled with an eviction.
Wondering how to get rid of squatters? Although they are not paying tenants, they do have some rights.
Squatters’ rights are legal allowances to occupy a property without the owner’s permission, as long as they haven’t been served an eviction notice. A squatter’s rights may vary by state — but in many areas, a squatter can take legal possession of the property after a certain amount of time if they prove adverse possession (meaning they are open about living there without the owner’s permission, haven’t signed a lease and have lived there illegally for long enough that they become the new legal owner).
Squatters can be evicted, but you must comply with local laws. If you end up in a situation where evicting squatters is your only option, check with a legal professional in your area to find out what rights they have and what rules you need to follow.
Here’s what you should do if you discover squatters on your property:
Once you find out there’s a squatter on your property, it’s crucial to comply with state and local laws. Removing squatters by force is dangerous and may result in criminal charges against you. In addition, you should avoid:
Courts may view any of the above acts as taking matters into your own hands and avoiding the legal process, which could result in a fine — or worse — and make it even more difficult to remove the squatter.
As a landlord, you should take active measures to prevent squatters on your property — especially if it’s vacant. Preventing squatters can be done in many ways:
Allowing a squatter to occupy your property uncontested may mean that your property legally becomes theirs after a period of time — and you won’t have any say about it after the fact. Removing squatters may also become harder the longer they live on your property. Aside from simply living on your property, a squatter might:
Make it more difficult for you to claim ownership: The longer you wait, the more likely their squatters’ rights will apply.
Take up your time and money: An eviction process can take months and be costly.
Restrict your ability to rent: You will be unable to rent your property until the squatter is gone and the property is cleaned up.
Cause damage: Squatters may damage structures or landscaping, especially if they’re reluctant to leave.
Removing squatters can take anywhere from days to months — and maybe even years in rare circumstances. However, the legal eviction process typically only takes 4-5 weeks depending on what’s involved.
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