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In a perfect world, the only tenants you’ll have to deal with are the paying renters who live in your property legally. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, individuals may occupy one of your rental properties without your permission. These people are often called serial squatters.
Discovering squatters in one of your vacant properties can be extraordinarily stressful. Fortunately, there are numerous steps you can take to address the situation while adhering to squatters’ rights.
Serial squatters can pose a significant challenge for property owners and landlords alike, and dealing with them requires a proactive, educated approach. Let’s discuss the definition of a serial squatter, walk through strategies to remove squatters, and provide tips on how to avoid falling victim to their various schemes.
What is a Serial Squatter?
Serial squatters are people who move from rental to rental without ever being a legal tenant. More often than not, they tend to target small, independent landlords (or roommates) who don’t require leases or conduct thorough background checks.
In other words, serial squatting involves individuals deliberately occupying rental units without legal rights, often abusing legal loopholes or taking advantage of laid-back (or careless) property management. This can lead to apartment damage, financial loss, and legal problems for landlords. Knowing the signs of serial squatting is essential to take swift action.
How to Get Rid of Serial Squatters
Before leaping into immediate and aggressive action, it’s critical to understand your rights as a landlord. Educate yourself about local eviction laws and regulations, as they vary in different geographic areas. Being acquainted with the legal framework can empower you to navigate the situation more effectively.
Here are some additional tips to keep top of mind;
- Get legal advice. Consult with a legal professional who specializes in property law. They can offer tips, strategies, and the proper guidance on the best course of action, ensuring you abide by all legal requirements.
- If – and when – necessary, obtain a court order. In some jurisdictions, getting a court order is a necessary step for the lawful eviction of serial squatters. Work with your lawyer to secure the appropriate court orders. This includes documents like eviction notices or possession orders to help you regain control of your property.
How to Avoid Serial Squatters
For starters, always document everything related to your rental properties. Most experts say detailed and thorough documentation is vital to building a strong enough case against serial squatters.
Also, keep records of all lease agreements, tenant communication, eviction notices, or related incidents. This can be valuable and critical evidence in legal proceedings.
- Secure Your Unoccupied Properties. One of the easiest ways to prevent serial squatters from taking up residency in your property is by implementing security measures. Consider installing durable locks, alarm systems, and security cameras to frighten off potential squatters.
- Inspect and maintain vacant properties regularly to ensure they are not alluring targets for serial squatters. Another tip: Identify any signs of unlawful occupation and communicate with neighbors to encourage them to report any suspicious activities.
- Screen Renters Methodically. Employ a rigorous tenant screening process – this means checking rental history, references, and credit reports to determine a prospective tenant’s reliability. This strategy can significantly reduce the risk of serial squatters nesting in your properties.
- Use a Property Management Service. Enlist the help of professional property management services to watch over your properties. These professionals are well-trained to handle regular unit inspections, deal with tenant-related issues, and ensure properties are well-maintained.
Squatters Rights You Should Be Aware Of
Landlords often struggle to comprehend the fact that individuals who unlawfully occupy a property cannot simply be removed at the whim of the property owner. These individuals possess what is commonly referred to as squatters’ rights, which allow them to reside in a property without the owner’s consent, provided they have not been served with an official eviction notice.
In fact, in many states, squatters can even assert legal ownership of a property through something called adverse possession laws. For instance, in the state of New York, squatters’ rights can be set up in as little as 30 days. With this in mind, it’s crucial for landlords to act immediately once they discover serial squatters living in one of their vacant units.
Still confused? Here’s some background to better understand the situation.
A long time ago, squatters’ rights were created in an effort to protect urban residents in search of affordable housing. These rights allowed people to settle in abandoned homes that were not being used. The purpose of these rights has been to deter the use of vigilante justice, or in layman’s terms, to prevent landlords from taking matters into their own hands and removing squatters on their own. Unfortunately, when landlords handle it without the proper support, it often ends badly and sometimes becomes dangerous.
So, what rights do squatters have? Serial squatters have the right not to be forced from a property without advanced notice. In most cases, state regulations require landlords to give eviction notices to unauthorized tenants as they would to tenants who have signed leases.
At the end of the day, the main factor to keep in mind regarding serial squatters’ rights is that the squatters must have the chance to undergo their own eviction process. Without sticking to this process, a landlord’s legal claim can be diluted when presented in a court of law.
Handling serial squatter encounters requires a strategic mix of legal know-how, proactive measures, and communication.
When landlords and property managers understand their rights, it can only better help protect properties and reduce the risk of falling prey to serial squatters. The key is to stay on guard, be informed, and take essential steps to safeguard your properties.