Your tenant has abandoned the rental property and you haven't realized this as the property owner.
You've been sending out the notices to pay or quit because you haven't been getting the rent, but the tenant has literally moved out and left the property vacant.
During your inspection of the property to see what is going on, you notice that there are people living in the home that shouldn't be there.
Those folks are squatters.
Squatting is a fairly common practice. If they haven't established a tenancy, then knowing how to get rid of squatters is as simple as calling local law enforcement officials to take care of the situation.
If the squatters have established tenancy, however, then you'll need to officially evict them from your property.
What Happens If a Previous Tenant Left the Power On?
A home is considered to be occupied if it is supplied with power and water.
Squatters don't have to be actively paying the utility bills of a rental home in order for them to be legally defined as a tenant.
As long as there is no hiding the fact that they are living in the home and the utilities are available to be consumed, most law enforcement officials will look at you if you've called them and apologize because they can't do anything about it.
This means your first step with squatters who are considered tenants is to evict them.
You'll need to follow the same process that you would with any other tenant, but with one exception: instead of sending a notice to pay or quit, you can send them a notice to terminate tenancy instead.
Landlord/tenant law will dictate how much time you must give the squatters to leave.
Some jurisdictions allow as little as 72 hours. A few go up to 60 days.
If you cut off the utilities to the home of a squatter who has established tenancy, you could be fined, the squatters could sue you, and you might wind up starting the eviction process all over.
Just legally evict them, even if the utilities are in your name, because it's the cheapest overall cost you'll face.
Most Squatters Aren't Going to Go to Court
As long as you have followed the proper procedures according to your landlord/tenant law for eviction, you'll be able to file for a court motion to proceed with the eviction if the squatters don't leave the property.
Many will just move out when they receive the first notice, but a few will stick around to be legally evicted.
Once your notice to terminate the tenancy has expired, file a court motion and receive a court order for the eviction.
The squatter will have a chance to respond or defend themselves, but most don't appear in court and you'll receive a default judgment.
This judgment will allow the local sheriff's office to conduct the eviction.
They will remove the people from the premises with a 72 hour notice.
You will then be able to take physical possession of the rental property once again and begin to make repairs as necessary.
You must act immediately whenever squatters are discovered because many jurisdictions will view a 30 day delay as acceptance of the living arrangements.
This would qualify the squatters to be on a month-to-month lease instead, which makes the eviction process even more difficult.
Follow these tips and your local landlord/tenant laws and you know how to get rid of squatters.
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