What Are Squatters Rights

If there are vacant spaces on a rental property, then squatters may claim the right to be there because they are occupying the space even though they don't own it. By definition, squatting must occur on an abandoned or unused dwelling. If there are personal items in the home and the property is actively used, then it is considered a home invasion in many jurisdictions instead of squatting. If you do have squatters, here is what you need to do.

1. Landlords Must Take Action Right Away.

If a landlord or property manager is aware of squatters on a property and they do nothing to remove them, then this may be considered an implicit agreement with the living arrangements. If this happens, a full eviction process may need to take place to remove the individuals from the property.

2. Squatters Can Actually Become the Property Owner.

In order for a squatter to successfully take ownership of a property, several things must happen. They must first live openly on the property and do so continuously. They must be there without permission. They must also be paying property taxes on the land, be paying utility bills, and be maintaining the structure of the property. If they do so for a particular period of time, they will become the property owners. In California, a squatter must do this for 5 years. In Texas, a squatter must do this for 30 years.

3. Police Often Have Their Hands Tied.

If a squatter takes over an occupied property, police may remove the individuals because it could be considered a home invasion. If the property was abandoned, however, and utilities have been setup, this is often enough to give squatters tenancy in the eyes of the criminal law. This makes the issue a civil one and requires landlords or property owners to proceed through civil courts to receive an eviction.

4. Squatters Have the Rights to Utilities.

The first step that many landlords take when they discover squatters is to shut off the utilities. That's a bad idea because most jurisdictions would find this to be an illegal act and could levy fines against the landlord. Squatters also have the right to a safe property, so if someone should fall through a rotted subfloor, a landlord could be sued for their personal injuries, even though squatters are there without permission.

5. A Full Eviction Must Take Place.

Once tenancy has been established for squatters, even those there without permission, a full eviction process must take place. This means giving them a notice to quit and any required follow-up notices. It also means court dates, hearings, and the possibility of a judge actually awarding tenancy to a squatter if the paperwork isn't 100% correct. If that happens, a landlord would be forced to start all over again. Squatters rights are designed more to protect tenancy rights. Although it can be difficult for landlords when they encounter squatters, the morale of these rights is pretty clear. Maintain properties. Visit them often. Act immediately if someone is there without permission. In doing so, many issues can be resolved before they become costly.

Posted on Jan 05, 2015


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