Squatters rights is real and should be considered a real threat if you have a vacant property at any time. Even if you consider the vacancy a short time period you should secure your property with not only good locks but portable security camera and or alarm systems that can alert you on your cell phone. Once you understand the grounds for squatters rights you will see the value in taking one of the security measures in todays marketplace. Don’t be fooled squatters can land themselves in well populated neighborhoods too it’s not only neighborhoods going thru gentrification or distressed homes that are susceptible to squatters. Landlords and homeowners in so called good areas or leasing their properties to professional squatters just prefer to keep this embarrassing problem to themselves. So believe that it can happen to you and here’s why:
The key to squatting successfully lies in the tenant’s rights. States grant rights to people who live in a property but do not own it. This protects tenants from being kicked out without notice from a landlord or homeowner. In most states, tenant rights are extended to anyone living in a home for period of time — usually 30 days. Squatters exploit these rights to stay in a home as long as possible. By setting up housekeeping, making repairs, adding some curtains, and settling into the home in a generally respectable manner, the appearance of tenants’ rights can be established.
In time, squatters can actually earn ownership of the dwelling. There’s a legal precedent in most of the United States called adverse possession. This doctrine says that if a squatter lives “openly, continuously and hostilely” in a home for a prescribed number of years, he or she can become the owner. This applies to property that’s vacant and where property taxes aren’t being paid. The three criteria that must be met are making no attempts to hide the inhabitation (open), living in the dwelling continuously and without permission (hostile). If the squatter pays property taxes on the home, when the time limit is reached, he or she is considered the owner.
The time requirement before ownership through adverse possession kicks in varies from state to state. But ultimately, adverse possession can result in a squatter owning the house. Squatting isn’t a one, two, three concept. There are challenges to taking over a house at every turn but it’s possible.
An unused house that is hijacked by squatters might be in a transition between tenants. Once squatters have moved in, any potential revenue that may come from the property screeches to a halt. While a landlord may feel like the loser in a squatting situation, if he or she follows the law, the landlord will most likely emerge as the victor. When a landlord finds a squatter, the first logical step would seem to be to cut off the power and water to the house and padlock the doors. Not a good idea. There are laws that protect the rights of a tenant, and these are granted to squatters as well. The courts can levy fines against the landlord for taking these illegal actions. What’s more, a landlord can be held liable for any harm that comes to a person on his or her property — even people living there without permission. This makes the situation even stickier for a steamed landlord and is all the more reason for him or her to seek legal advice.
While there are laws that protect the squatter, there are also laws to protect the property holder. These laws tend to ultimately favor the landlord. Step one to getting rid of a squatter is to call the police. If police find squatters, there’s not a whole lot they can do. Police uphold criminal law — not civil law. Civil law is worked out in the courts. Once police determine that a squatter has established some sort of tenancy, the issue becomes a civil matter. By settling into a home in a generally respectable manner, a squatter can create the appearance of tenants’ rights. If the squatter is deemed to have established tenant’s rights, it becomes a civil matter and the police are helpless to intervene but you have created that police report which is important in court. Then the process of eviction begins. This legal procedure involves lots of paperwork, including serving the unwanted tenant with eviction notices and informing them of court dates. It also involves sacrifice on the landlord’s behalf: He or she must take time off from work to appear in court and accept lost rent money on the property if it is for lease.
In the end this is why landlords and homeowners need to secure their properties with locks, alarm systems, security cameras and or vigilant neighbors willing to give you a phone call no matter what. Portable remote camera systems today are very cost effective and easy to access with your cell phone or home computer so why not take the time to have them in the vacant property until it’s occupied again. These security cameras are easy to remove once property is occupied with a lease, so think about it. The long term investment is priceless. Alarm systems are just as viable for vacant homes that the permanent tenant may use for their own security so installing them can be valuable feature.