What do landlords need to know about squatter's rights? and what are the laws and regulations around evicting unauthorized tenants.
In rare scenarios, people may occupy your property without your permission or knowledge. This can be devastating for landlords, as it means you cannot search for paying tenants until the occupiers leave or are removed. Plus, there may be a risk of damage to your property.
Squatters though, have rights – you can’t simply force them to leave. Instead, you need to follow the property protocol to resolve the issue with respect to the regulations that protect tenants’ rights.
In many ways, squatter’s rights are similar to the rights of renters, as they are essentially unauthorized tenants. Squatters are individuals or groups occupying a property they don’t own and are not paying rent.
Despite the fact that these “tenants” don’t have permission to occupy the premises, you can’t simply kick them out. Generally speaking, the rules regarding squatters include the occupant’s right not to be displaced from the property without notice. Most regulations dictate that unauthorized tenants must receive an eviction notice that must be delivered either by mail or via the local police department.
Regulations around squatter’s rights tend to treat the unauthorized occupants as tenants that have failed to pay rent. You should not directly contact the people living in your property, instead, follow regulations to remove squatters legally.
It’s important to also note that squatters should be dealt with quickly. Adverse possession laws may allow squatters to take possession of your property after a period of 7 (under color of title) to 20 years (not under color of title). Depending on your location there may be additional conditions required for them to take possession of the property such as paying some of the costs associated with the property.
The main goal of squatter’s rights is to discourage property owners from taking matters into their own hands. If landlords were allowed to take action themselves, the situation could quickly escalate to violent confrontations. Squatters have rights to facilitate a system of justice. The law defines the rights of each involved party to reach a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible.
Almost every state has regulations regarding squatter’s rights, though these laws vary from state to state. Housing regulations set by states and municipalities typically govern how landlords must handle evictions, especially the eviction of squatters.
Whilst squatting is technically a type of trespassing, there is a clear delineation between the two. Trespassing involves entering a property unlawfully; squatters take this one step further: they have the intention of taking ownership or of making the property their permanent residence.
Generally, squatters will take possession of unattended real estate, such as vacant buildings, as these are only loosely monitored. However, tenants whose lease has expired or are no longer paying rent may also be classified as squatters.
If either the owner or a resident is occupying the property, a trespasser generally won’t be covered by squatter’s rights. In some states, the use of force to remove trespassers from an owner-occupied property is a protected right.
Most states and municipalities have specific regulations regarding the handling of unauthorized occupants in your property. It’s always a good idea to get legal advice from a licensed professional when looking to pursue an eviction process.
There are a few things you need to know before evicting squatters:
Squatter evictions typically occur when larger real estate firms purchase distressed properties or foreclosed properties. In contrast, squatter evictions are rarely necessary for independent landlords because these landlords tend to have a better knowledge of the status of their tenants and properties.
Property owners need to be familiar with squatter’s rights and the legal processes and documentation required to handle this situation efficiently should it ever occur to them.
The best way to keep squatters out of your property is to regularly visit and maintain it.
Beyond monitoring who’s in your property, it’s also essential for landlords to find quality tenants in the first place and communicate with them throughout their stay. Landlord Studio can help you find and thoroughly screen potential tenants so you can be confident that you’re signing the lease with tenants who will pay rent on time and uphold their responsibilities.