What is a Squatter? Squatters Have Rights? How is This Possible?
May 28, 2023
What is squatting?

Post-Covid, whenever we have a social event, I always notice that there’s one guest who “overstays their welcome” and continues to hang around even when all other guests have said good night! Although I am pleased you are enjoying yourself, chez moi is about to close for the evening.

Now imagine how frustrating it would be to have someone come onto your property uninvited, and decide to inhabit your dwelling, without permission.

That’s squatting, in a nutshell.

May be difficult to believe, but squatters have rights. Their preference would be to label their efforts as Adverse Possession.

In all fairness, some tenants are not aware that the unit they just moved into does not belong to the landlord. They were probably shown the property, formally applied, and were awarded a lease. Unfortunately, that lease is not valid and anyone living in the house is still considered to be squatting.


What is a Squatter?

A squatter is anyone who inhabits property or land void of any legal right to do so. Meaning, a rental agreement or mortgage is non-existent.

You would assume it would be easy to eject an unauthorized occupant, right? Wrong. The “adverse possessor” / “squatter” has the rights to undergo a formal eviction process.

You would also assume a squatter would try to take ownership of an unoccupied home. Not true! In many states, a guest residing in YOUR HOME beyond 3 days has squatter rights — requiring you to live every waking moment with an unwanted guest while the wheels of justice SLOWLY churn.

The rightful owner of the property must act within a certain statutory period (outlined above state by state) before the adverse possession law in their state gives legal title to the squatter who has taken possession of the real property.


The Squatter Strategy

Goal #1 Gain occupancy. Move into a property for an undetermined time period without the owner taking legal action. Property owners can contact local law enforcement and also file an Unlawful Detainer Action.

Goal #2 Attaining permanent residency. Depending on state requirements, official squatter’s right to a dwelling may range from 7 to 20 years.

Goal #3 Possess false documentation. Some tenants are duped into believing they are working with the property’s owner or property management company, and are supplied with a phony lease. Others will create a dummy lease of their own volition, and present is as a valid document, even in court!

Goal #4 Pay property taxes in full. To strengthen their Adverse Possession claim, some squatters will pay property taxes.

Goal #5 Discover an abandoned property. Since abandoned properties are less monitored, it would probably take longer for squatters to be discovered, delaying the advent of immediate legal action.


Do Squatters Have Rights?

The main goal of squatters’ rights is to deter violence by property owners. This interaction could easily become a catalyst for vigilante justice in other life occurrences. Just like tenant rights, the idea is consistent with the message that your home represents safety and sanctuary, not retribution.


Isn’t Squatting Just a Fancy Word For Trespassing?

Trespassing – of a commercial or residential dwelling… or land is similar to squatting, except that trespassing is temporarily lingering, with no intent to stake a claim in the property’s ownership.

In most cases, the rights of a squatter are not recognized, so an eviction process does not need to be facilitated. It’s simply trespassing. In these scenarios, you still do not have the capability to exert force to remove the trespassers.

3 Signs You Have A Squatter

How Do You Get a Squatter Out?

My advice to you is to not address the squatter directly. Call local law enforcement. While they may not have the authorization to remove the squatter, they can witness your interaction.

In some instances, the traumatic experience of having police at your door alongside a property owner eager to remove you, may be enough to expel the squatter. The police report you receive demonstrates your “call to action” AGAINST the squatter, which begins the process of refuting the squatter’s claim.

Filing an Unlawful Detainer Action. Attain an attorney to advise of your rights in your state. The Unlawful Detainer initiates the eviction process. The subsequent hearings stemming from filing the action require BOTH parties to attend.

It’s highly likely the judge will rule in your favor if the squatter fails to show.


The Squatter is Removed! Now what?

Well, did the squatter happen to leave any property behind? If so, based on the laws of your state, you may not be allowed to touch their property!

Bring written notice to your Unlawful Detainer hearing to illustrate your intentions of what you intend to do with any property left behind. In some states, a particular period of time must pass to allow the squatter to coordinate removing the property. Even it appears to be trash, listen to your lawyer, and don’t touch it! The squatter will lie and state you removed a valued possession, creating more legal hurdles!


The Dream of Property Ownership and Passive Rental Income

We don’t want to deter from becoming a landlord, but obviously, we must all become acquainted with tenant rights and squatter rights. The more you know, the more you can prepare yourself for a legal battle. There’s a good chance that squatters are more aware of their rights than you and have been through this process before.

Passive income is an amazing concept, but there’s a lot of work that goes into rental real estate and other means of passive income like stock dividend investing.

If anything, keep your property ownership document handy. If you have inherited a home, a vacation property, or an empty, unoccupied home, check on it often! And a good security system is mandatory!


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