Lets face it, only those who pay rent should live in your rental property.  In some extremely cases however, an individual or group of people might live in the residence which you call your rental property and they won’t be paying you rent!

It’s. problem when you find out that someone is living in your rental without you knowing.  There are ways landlords can fix the situation and ensure tenant rights are protected.

What are Squatters

Squatting is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land or a building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use. They are typically indigent and take shelter in your home

Quick Facts:

  • Squatting is illegal in many countries and can lead to eviction and arrest.
  • In some cases, squatters may have a legal right to squat if they can prove they have a claim to the property.
  • Squatting can also be a form of land reform, and it has been used as a way to reclaim unused or underutilized land.
  • According to a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, there are approximately 2.5 to 3.5 million squatters in the United States.
  • Squatting is often seen as a last resort for people who are homeless or cannot afford housing.
  • Someone who enters a vacant property and begins living there
  • A tenant who stops paying rent but continues to live on the property
  • Someone who was duped into paying rent for real estate to someone who did not have the right or ability to rent it out.
  • Anyone who believes they have a right to live on land that does not currently belong to them.

The Definition in Texas

In Texas, a squatter is defined as a person who knowingly and intentionally enters or remains on another person’s land without the owner’s effective consent and with the intent to deprive the owner of possession of the land.

lockbox on door to prevent squatters from entering

Squatters Vs a Tresspasser

Although the terms may seem similar, there is a legal distinction between a “squatter” and a “trespasser”. It can be difficult to identify the difference.

Both situations indicate that the person in question is illegally in a rental property they don’t have permission to enter.

Trespassing is a temporary situation where the individual isn’t trying to stay there. Squatters, on the other hand will often try to claim ownership of the property or claim permission to be there.

A squatter often claims the address as theirs on official documents such as phone or utility bills to determine the difference between a trespasser, and a tenant.

What are Squatter Rights?

Unauthorized tenants (also known as squatters) are people or groups who have lived in a property they don’t own, or pay rent to.

Squatter rules generally include the right of the occupant to not be removed from their property without notice. Most regulations require landlords send eviction notices to unauthorized tenants by mail or through their local police station. Squatters are treated much the same as renters who don’t pay their rent. Landlords cannot just expel them from their property.

According to Investopedia , adverse possession laws allow squatters to take over the property after they have met several requirements. These include continuous use, hostile and adverse occupation of the property, open and notorious possession, actual possession, and exclusive use.

Why Do these People Have Legal Status?

The U.S. Squatter Laws were based on Great Britain’s property law and were intended to identify where each property owner’s land begins and ends.

Patrick Sission reported in Curbed that squatters rights developed in the U.S.A as people moved to big cities seeking affordable housing and protections. This allowed displaced people to creatively rehabilitate abandoned spaces.

Which States Recognize Squatters' Rights

Although most states have their own owners who regulate squatter rights, the laws vary from one state to another. Housing regulations of both states and cities govern landlords’ handling of evictions, particularly for squatters. Landlords can hire an attorney to help them understand the regulations applicable to tenants who are not authorized to rent their property, or they can do it themselves.

What is an Adverse Possession Claim

In Texas, a squatter can access the premises through what is called an adverse possession claim. As long as the squatter meets a set of strict criteria, they can then qualify for legal ownership of the property.

What is Color of Title

You may have heard of the term, color of title. This legal terminology occurs when a person irregularly takes possession of said property. In Texas the squatter needs to claim color of title for three out of a total of 10 years.

But if they pay property taxes or make other improvements, then the original property owner is going to have more problems! 

cops with handcuffs for squatter

Ways to Evict a Person

Your state or municipality will likely have rules about how to handle unauthorized occupants on your property. Here you will find out how to serve an eviction notice. A landlord can file the eviction paperwork on their own, without the help of a lawyer. You can amend your papers or delay hearings if necessary. Here are some tips from FindLaw to help you decide whether you should hire a lawyer for the eviction process.

  1. Find out if they are trespassers or squatters. Because the regulations regarding trespassers or squatters are different, landlords must know if people have occupied their property for a short time or for a longer period. “If it’s a super short period of time, a couple of weeks or a month or something like that, that’s just a criminal breaking-and-entering situation,” Bradley said. If that happens, landlords should call the police to report the break-in.
  2. You can begin the eviction procedure. If the squatters refuses to vacate, you may also file an unlawful detainer lawsuit.  You will need the sheriff or police to get rid of them if they don’t leave after the lawsuit.
  3. Be aware of adverse possession laws. Do not wait too long before you start eviction proceedings. If you fail to quickly file the eviction proceedings, the adverse possession laws could result in ownership being transferred to the squatters. The [adverse possess requirement] clock stops once you have called them and filed something in court. 
  4. Be aware of the potential consequences of illegal evictions. Although evicting an illegal tenant and a squatter are two different things, it is better to be safe than sorry and comply with all local eviction laws.
 

Squatter evictions are most common when large real estate companies purchase distressed properties in urban and rural areas, or foreclosed homes. Because independent landlords often have better knowledge of their tenants and properties, these types of evictions are rare.

Outcomes of Squatting

Money Will Be Spent

Property owners will need to win their case in order to remove the individuals in the residence. You will likely lose money when dealing with squatters. You will not only be unable to rent the property out to generate your regular rental income, but you will also need to invest money to evict the .

Evictions can take a long time and your company will be more stressed if they are not resolved quickly. It is important to act quickly to minimize the loss and to remove squatters.

They Will Damage Your Property

In most squatter situations, property damage occurs. There are many damage possibilities, from broken windows to damaged appliances.

After you have regained possession of the property, you must repair any damage before you rent it out again. This can be time-consuming and costly, as well as a lot more work for you and your team. 

How do these Individuals gain access to property?

Squatters gain access to the property by physically moving in and taking possession of it. This can be done by force, or by simply taking occupancy and acting as if they own the property. In some cases, squatters may even change the locks on the property or erect barricades to keep the rightful owner out.

Keep an Eye on your Real Estate

Regularly visiting and maintaining your property will keep squatters away. If you are trying to balance your landlord duties with other responsibilities, you may need some extra assistance from a third party. 

It’s important for landlords to not only monitor who is living in their property but also to identify quality tenants and keep in touch with them throughout their stay. Avail can assist you thoroughly screening potential tenants to ensure that you are signing a lease with someone who will pay rent and fulfill their obligations.

Ways to Prevent Vagrants from Accessing your Land

Prevention is better than treatment – this old saying rings true here. It is easier to prevent a squatter living on your property than it is to remove them once they are there. You can prevent squatters living on your property by following these steps:

  • A property owners should inspect the property regularly.
  • Make sure you pay your property taxes on time.
  • If the property isn’t occupied, place “No Trespassing” signs everywhere.
  • Start the eviction process as soon as you become aware that a squatter has been found.
  • Get professional legal advice.
  • Reputable property management companies are available.

Have some people squatting in your home and don’t want to have to deal with them. Cash investors can help you deal with this process. They will purchase your home in cash and take care of the situation themselves.