As a landlord or homeowner there may be times when your property is vacant. This can open up a whole host of problems, the possibility of vandalism, pest and rodent damage, and one of the most difficult problems to solve – squatters. Squatting happens when someone notices your house is empty and decides to set up residence there. Some people even go so far as to put the utilities in their own name and forward their mail to the address, in the hopes of establishing evidence of tenancy. So what can you do to try to prevent this from happening if you must leave a home unoccupied for a period of time?
- Notify local law enforcement that your property is vacant so that they know to keep an eye on it while patrolling. Notifying the neighbors is also a good idea.
- Don’t use combo boxes – they can be easily removed with the right tools giving the squatters easy in and out access with your keys.
- Lock up tight – don’t leave any windows or doors vulnerable to unauthorized entry. This might seem obvious but most break-ins are from unlocked areas.
- Visit weekly if possible – this will create noticeable, regular activity that should deter anyone from attempting to set up shop inside.
- Put effort into making it look occupied - installing light timers, keeping window coverings up, keeping the lawn trimmed, etc. will create the illusion of occupancy, making squatting seem like less of an option to outsiders.
Following these simple measures can go a long way toward saving you the grief and expense of having to take squatters to court to get them off your property. And whatever you do, don't let your house sit vacant for too long. Otherwise, you're just asking for trouble.