When the housing bubble burst in the late 2000s, a slew of foreclosures became vacant, triggering a nationwide epidemic of people trying to get adverse possession (taking ownership of a property by occupying it illegally for long enough to prove residency). If you have empty rental homes, or you’re a homeowner who is waiting for your vacant house to sell, you could become a victim of squatting.
If someone has moved into your vacant property, they may even turn on utilities in their own name as proof that they have the right to live there. You can – and should – call the police. Depending upon local laws, they may consider this a civil matter rather than criminal and refuse to remove the squatter.
If police won’t act on the problem, you will have to serve an eviction notice, and barring this solving the problem, you will have to file a court case in the form of an unlawful detainer lawsuit. While seemingly unfair, there are some actions you are not legally entitled to take. These include:
- Turning the utilities off
- Using methods of intimidation against the offenders
- Place padlocks to keep them out
Unfortunately the laws in many places seem to be skewed in a way that benefits tenants over landlords, and squatters are a gray area under that umbrella. Once you have this problem, it can be very expensive and time-consuming to resolve, so the best cure is definitely an ounce of prevention by visiting your property often when vacant and getting it occupied as soon as possible.