In the current economy, it is more important than ever for a landlord or property owner to understand squatters rights and how to evict them. Squatters are people who move into abandoned, foreclosed, or otherwise unoccupied homes or premises. Generally, under United States law, the owners can have a squatter evicted for violating loitering or trespassing laws, unless the squatters can establish that they have tenants' rights, or can gain adverse possession due to the property having been completely abandoned by the owner.
There is a difference between a squatter and a trespasser. Squatters move into a vacant property, put the utilities in their name, get mail at the property address, and openly take possession. Knowing squatters rights is important when you want to take action against them. Squatters often prepare false documents to show police and other authorities to prevent being ejected. It is difficult for police to determine who has legal documents and who does not. Trespassers break windows and doors to gain entry. They do not have utilities and have no furniture. The police are much more willing to eject trespassers.Each state has different laws respecting squatters. In most states, it requires legal eviction proceedings to remove squatters. In some states, landlords can be sued by the squatters if the landlord forces entry into the premises themselves while the squatter is “in residence”. Sadly, some squatters are victims of real estate scams and believe that they are the tenants, in fact, because they have paid rent and deposits to a fake landlord. These victims are generally willing to go with you to the legal authorities to report the situation.
When you own a property with squatters in residence, it is often necessary to file an eviction action with the court for evicting squatters. In some states, it is necessary to file a repossession claim and have ownership established by the court. While this action can take months, there are some other things you can do to remove squatters.
You can go to the utility companies and find out what documentation is necessary with each company to prove ownership of the property. Take a copy of your deed and real estate ownership papers, your current insurance papers for the property, and photo identification. When you have established ownership, have the utility company turn off the utilities. However, if you do this, you must understand the risks. If there are no utilities for the property, the squatters might start fires to keep warm and use candles for light. Of course, this can be a dangerous situation that leads to a fire. Also, even if the water is shut off, the squatter may continue to use your property as a rest room.
If you have purchased the property from a bank, it would be advisable to immediately notify the bank about the presence of squatters. When a bank forecloses on a property, their duty is to disclose to you the condition of that property. When the bank sells you the property, they have to, by law, give you a title free and clear of any encumbrances. Most states also require that the bank, or the seller of the property, give you the property free and clear of any adverse possession claims. That means that the property has no occupant and no recorded, or unrecorded, claim by any occupant that could affect your title. On some occasions, the squatters on the property you have purchased are the holders of the mortgage that was foreclosed and have never been legally evicted by the bank. In this case, it is usually possible to get the bank or the seller of the property to perform an eviction and pay the expensive costs of same.
When the time arrives for you to physically remove squatters, consider using a professional eviction service. Removing squatters yourself can prove to be dangerous and can be fraught with potential liability, even though you are in the right. Squatters are such a pervasive problem, especially in highly populated areas, that these professional services have developed a way to remove tenants in a manner that limits liability in some states. Be sure to do your research and choose a reputable service. Usually, local law enforcement can give you information on services that are available.
One of the best tricks for the protection of your property and to avoid this issue is to have a complete tenant screening done by LandLordStation.com. A tenant can move out, giving possession of the premises to people who are not on the lease, making those people squatters. This type of squatter is the most difficult to remove. Help prevent this type of squatter by using the tenant screening process we offer.
For more information about squatters rights and how to evict them, visit LandLordStation.com and participate in the discussions available on our website with knowledgeable and experienced landlords and property managers.
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