How to Prevent Squatters On Your Rental Property
Thirty-six percent of Americans legally live in rental properties. Nailing down how many more take up illegal residence in a rental property via squatting is much harder to pin down.
Finding squatters on your property can be a rental owner’s nightmare. Keep reading to learn how to keep squatters off your property and what you can and can’t do if some try to take up residence in a home you own.
Keep the Property Occupied
The simplest way to prevent squatters is to keep your rental property occupied as consistently as possible with approved tenants. If you’re experiencing long gaps between tenants, consider updating and refining your tenant screening process.
Review your rental contract to ensure you’re requiring tenants to give you enough notice before they move out. This will give you enough time to find new tenants who can move in right away and prevent your property from being empty and appealing to potential squatters.
Make Regular Visits to Your Rental Property
Regardless of whether your property is occupied or empty, make a habit of visiting often. If you own property that you cannot visit on a consistent basis, hire a property manager to visit on your behalf. This habit can mitigate or prevent many of the potential hassles associated with becoming a landlord, not just squatting.
If you or your property manager notices signs of trespassing or squatting, do not wait to act. While the exact rules around adverse possession vary from state to state, they always include a time component. If you as the owner do not act to evict the squatters, their claim to your property gets stronger.
The longer squatters remain, the more rights they obtain under the law. Moreover, if the squatters trespassed to obtain access to your property, that is its own crime. But if you don’t act right away, evidence of that crime may be lost.
This can make it more difficult to remove them from your property and prosecute.
What Not to Do
Perhaps the most important piece of landlord advice a property owner can receive is that knowing what not to do is every bit as important as knowing what steps you should take if a squatter problem arises. As a property owner, it is easy to assume that since you are the legal owner, you have all the rights.
Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. Many states award squatters the same rights as legal tenants in default on their rent. This means that property owners must go through the standard eviction process to remove them.
Property owners are in violation of the law and may be subject to criminal charges if they attempt to resolve the problem using coercive measures such as:
- Turning off utilities to the property
- Intimidation or threats
- Attempting to physically remove squatters themselves or hiring others to do so
Selling Your Property
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with squatters or evictions, it may be time to sell the property. Keep in mind that you can get rid of it easily by selling to an investment company. Often, these companies will accept properties in any condition, even if they contain tenants, legal or otherwise.
Owning rental property can be both rewarding and challenging. Learn more about how to successfully navigate the world of real estate and investing by exploring our other great articles today.