For landlords and real estate agents alike, squatters are a serious problem. While these unwanted occupants do not own, rent or have permission to be on the property, many states guarantee them rights, making them an unwelcome discovery. According to the New York Times, Las Vegas and Northern Nevada has been hit particularly hard by the housing crash and growing unemployment rate. With over 4,000 squatter complaints made to the Las Vegas Police Department last year (a 43% increase from 2014), this steep rise in cases has bred an increase in crime. While some squatters are simply homeless families looking for shelter, Lt. Nick Farese of Las Vegas’ Police Department stated that they “’have seen a direct correlation between squatter houses and crime – burglaries, theft, robberies, and narcotics.’”
With these suspicious individuals settling down illegally, these neighborhoods have become less secure, not only unsettling neighbors, but making it difficult to get new tenants to lease properties near the occupied home. It’s especially dangerous for the landlord or real estate agent of the squatted home as they usually don’t know that their property is occupied until they try to get into the rental. Unfortunately, these “turf wars” (as KSNV NBC Las Vegas coins it) between these residing intruders and landlords is not uncommon.
Although some squatters will simply leave after being asked by the landlord, some will not. In some cases the individual might even be able to obtain adverse possession of the property! Research your state’s squatter’s rights and check to make sure they unable to obtain adverse possession of your rental in your state. If you currently have someone residing in your rental, here’s what you should and should not do.
What You Should Do:
- Ask Them to Leave
In some cases, the unwelcome individual will simply leave after knowing that they’ve been discovered by the landlord. While this obviously isn’t fool-proof, it’s worth a shot. Why start the eviction process when you might not need to?
- Call the Police
If they won’t leave, then immediately call the police. While the police won’t forcibly remove the squatter, as it’s typically seen as a civil matter, a formal police report will look better in court. Plus if you see the individual doing anything illegal, you should report it to the police to further protect your property and the neighbors surrounding your rental.
If you live in Las Vegas, this new squatter’s law (AB 386) allows the authorities to arrest anyone who housebreaks, forcibly enters a vacant home without the owner’s consent, and performs unlawful re-entry. Violators can be charged a misdemeanor or felony. For the Las Vegas police to arrest the people residing illegally in your rental, you will need to show proof of ownership.
- Serve Notice & Start the Eviction Process
No one wants to deal with an eviction, especially over a squatter. That being said, this legal action is necessary to get your property back. If the residing intruder has a potential case for adverse possession, consider consulting a lawyer. Make sure you’re adhering to your state’s landlord-tenant laws when continuing.
- Legally Deal with their Abandoned Stuff
In many cases you’re going to find a lot of the squatter’s things abandoned in your rental. While your initial urge will be to throw everything away, it’s best to deal with it legally. This might mean storing their things in a storage locker (at their expense).
What You Should NOT Do:
- Provoke Them
While this might be common sense, it goes both ways. Don’t threaten or provoke your unwelcome tenants. Similarly, don’t let yourself be provoked. Violence, or threats of violence (both verbally and written), never look good and solve nothing. Avoid escalating the situation more than necessary whenever possible.
- Turn off the Utilities
Turning off the utilities does more physical harm to your property, than good. Even if the utilities are in your name, shutting them off is illegal. Most squatters will continue living in your rental regardless of whether the utilities are on or off anyway.
- Change the Locks
Just as if the squatter was a tenant, changing the locks is illegal. Moving their things (whether they seem like trash or not) while they are residing there is also illegal.
If you have squatters in your property, assume that evicting them is going to be a long, legal process. While some individuals will easily pack up after the eviction notice has been served, many will not and it will take money, time, and a lot of patience to have them removed. Maybe it’s time to fight for more landlord-friendly legislation in your state?
Have you had to evict a squatter before? How was your situation unique? Let us know your experience in the comments section below & be sure to subscribe!