If your rental property has stood vacant for a while, it's vulnerable to squatters. Since you're here, you've probably realized unwanted guests currently occupy your unit. Despite their less-than-legal entry to your property, squatters' rights are very real, so you must follow proper eviction processes. Luckily, we've got some helpful tips and tricks on how to deal with squatters in your rental property — and what you should definitely avoid. Naturally, your immediate reaction to finding such occupants will be to throw them out. But never fall prey to this impulse. Otherwise, you can find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Instead, follow the three simple steps below to avoid infringing anybody's rights and deal with your squatters.
Firstly, call the police as soon as you discover someone in your building. Local law enforcement officers will be able to distinguish between trespassers and squatters. If they're considered trespassers, the police can lawfully remove them. But if they're squatters, the officers will put you on the right problem-solving path.
Depending on the county that your rental property is located in, the police can be extremely helpful or not. There are places where laws protect squatters and make it difficult to get them out. As long as there is no danger occurring, the police may not be of help. However, it's always worth a shot to reach out to local law enforcement when dealing with squatters. The worst that can happen is that they say no.
To remove somebody from your property, you must present them with an eviction notice — yes, even if they're squatters! It's a legal way to inform somebody that they need to leave your property. Sometimes, this is enough to scare squatters away, and they'll leave before you take further action.
There are multiple benefits to writing a letter to your squatters. You can say exactly what you want to say without getting cut off in a conversation. A letter allows you to include every single detail of the situation and plead your case to the squatter. Additionally, when dealing with a squatter in your rental property, putting things in writing is helpful when going to court. Make multiple copies to begin compiling your paper trail and build your case. The faster you can get them out, the better condition your property will be in.
If they don't leave, file a civil claim with your local authority. The methods involved depend on your state to ensure you check your state's laws before filing. Unfortunately, getting rid of squatters by taking them to court can take months. It's also not cheap! Be prepared to go to a legal battle with them depending on how tenant-friendly your city is. Make sure that it's worth going in this direction if you absolutely have to get them out of your rental property. Run the numbers and let that help you decide if taking legal action is the best move when dealing with squatters.
You know how to get rid of squatters, but now it's time to prevent it from happening again. Here are a few best practices:
Dealing with squatters in your rental property is never ideal. It's important to follow the four steps carefully to avoid facing legal action yourself. You can spend months of time and thousands of dollars attempting to remove them from your property. Sometimes, offering cash for keys is a quicker and easier route to go. Calculate what makes the most financial sense for you when dealing with squatters in your rental properties.