It can be a shock to realize that unauthorized persons live on your property. However, when you hear that squatters taking over your property may also have rights, you may be furious. After all, they don’t pay rent, don’t look after the unit, and they live there with no lease or verbal agreement – so why should they have any rights to your property?

Unfortunately, the issue of squatters’ rights can be quite complicated – and it got even more so during the pandemic when the issue of squatters’ rights came to the fore. That’s because the COVID-19 ban on evictions made it impossible to evict a non-paying tenant, but the eviction moratorium didn’t completely ban evictions. It was still possible to evict someone for breaking local rules, and in some cases this included squatting.

So what can you do about “unexpected tenants” taking over your property? Can you disable utilities and change the locks to get rid of them? Or are there other ways to effectively remove squatters from your property that don’t violate state laws? If you are curious about the answers to these questions, read on to find out what you can do about squatters who take over your property.

What is a cracker?

A squatter is someone who has entered a property to which he or she has no legal right, but has nevertheless taken up residence in the property. A squatter by definition does not pay rent to the owner of the property and lives there without the owner’s permission. In these cases, the squatter usually gains unauthorized access to the property and establishes a home there.

However, that is not always the case. In some cases, a squatter may mistakenly believe that he has a right to live there because of a fraudulent lease. This happens from time to time when clever criminals rent out your vacant property to someone else without permission and then steal the rent deposit and rent payments. It is a common scam – especially in areas with high rent demands or limited rental properties – and in these cases the squatter is not deliberately acting in a criminal manner.

What are squatters’ rights?

There is a series of laws dating back to the late 1800s that protect the rights of squatters. The rights were originally created to protect the pioneers who moved to wasteland, built a homestead, and began cultivating the land. At the time, the protections afforded by these rights were intended to allow pioneers to expand land owned by the government.

Fast-forward about 160 years and these laws mean squatters still have rights under the same legislation in the Homestead Act of 1862. So what does this mean for landlords? In legal terms, there is protection for squatters – called “unwanted property” – and it means that if a squatter has lived on the property for a period of time and you have not attempted to evict them, they can have a legal claim to the property .

Squatter vs Intruder: What’s the Difference??

If you are a landlord, it is extremely important to understand the difference between trespassing and squatting. An intruder is someone who breaks into a home to which he is not entitled. For example, an intruder can gain entry by breaking into a window or breaking a lock to gain entry. Violation is a criminal offense and you can call the police about this.

On the other hand, a squatter can gain “legal” entry if he can enter the premises without committing a criminal offence. For example, they could enter “legally” by entering through a broken window that they did not break, by sliding open a window, or by walking through an open door. In many cases, a squatter may simply be a tenant who stops paying rent at the end of the lease, but refuses to leave a rental property.

Which states have squatters’ rights?

All states recognize the rights of squatters in one way or another. However, the unfavorable property laws differ from state to state.

For example, under Pennsylvania squatters’ rights, a person must have lived on the property for at least 20 years to have any legal claim to the property. However, that requirement is a minimum of just seven years in states like Florida and Arkansas. And in California, squatters can have legal rights after as little as five years.

Squatters’ rights: how landlords can legally remove squatters

Since squatters can have legal title to your property after a certain number of years, the burning question for landlords is how to legally remove a squatter.

It is essential that you are on the right side of the law when removing a squatter, even if they live on your property without permission. Here are some steps you can take to do that:

1. Start Preventing Squatters

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Preventing squatters from entering your property is therefore the first step.

There are a few easy ways you can do this. For example, it’s a good idea to secure the property by making sure all doors and windows are locked and cannot be opened without your permission. You can also install alarms and motion detectors that send notifications to your mobile phone.

You should also visit your property regularly to check for broken windows and to make sure no one lives there. Visiting your property regularly will ensure that a squatter never spends enough time on your property to claim any legal right to it.

2. Call the police

If you find squatters living on your property, you should immediately call the police. Squatting is a civil matter, but the police can determine whether the people on your property are trespassers or squatters. The police report also helps with the next step: starting the eviction process.

However, remember that if the illegitimate tenants refuse to leave, you cannot take matters into your own hands. While it may seem reasonable to forcibly remove them, the truth is that they have rights. As such, you must follow the same eviction procedures that you would when removing a tenant for non-payment of rent.

3. Issue an eviction notice

The next step is to serve a formal eviction notice. Depending on your state, you usually need to give the squatters three to five days to vacate the premises. After that, you can Illegal Prisoner action. For this you must prove the following:

  • The tenant lives there without permission.
  • The squatter pays no rent.
  • You have made the required notification.
  • The squatter still lives in the building after the notice period has expired.

But what happens if the squatter refuses to leave despite the court order? In that case, you should proceed to the next step.

4. File a civil lawsuit to get rid of the squatter

If the squatter refuses to leave the property, you may have to file a lawsuit to remove them from the property. The judge will usually rule in favor of the landlord if all proper procedures have been followed. Therefore, you must fully adhere to the letter of the law.

Once the judge has ruled in your favor, you can submit the verdict to the local police, who will remove the squatters.

5. Get rid of a squatter’s possessions

Unfortunately, your problem with the cracker doesn’t always end there. If they’ve left some of their belongings on your property, you can’t always just throw them away.

In many cases, you may need to give them time to retrieve their belongings from your property before you lose them. However, it’s important to note that laws vary from state to state, so be sure to get sound legal advice before making any decisions about their belongings or throwing away their belongings.

Final thoughts on squatters’ rights and landlords

Finding squatters living on your property is frustrating. However, you must remember to act in accordance with the law. After all, squatters have rights in many cases and you don’t want to break the law.

And while you may want the squatters off your property, it’s important to understand that you cannot threaten them or carry out self-help or illegal evictions. However, if you follow the steps required for this type of eviction, you can get your property back in a timely manner in most cases.