March 27, 2024

Squatters Are An Issue - Here’s How To Prevent It

Property Management

Squatters are a growing problem nationwide. It is when a person, other than the owner or an authorized occupant, takes up residence in a home. This action was typically common among obviously abandoned homes but has become a burdening problem for even the most lavish of neighborhoods. Multi-family homes are commonly susceptible to the practice and depending on the side and most of all the management of the asset, it can go on for an extended time before it is recognized and resolved. Even worse, many states have ‘squatters rights’, or a set of laws and protocols that can make it extremely difficult and costly to reclaim your property. 

So, how do investors and homeowners protect themselves? Education and efficient property management.

Do Squatters Have rights?

Yes and No.

There’s no mistaking- taking up residence in a property that you legally have no right to occupy whether it's through direct ownership or by way of a leasing agreement is illegal. It’s an act of fraud and theft. Unfortunately, a lot of unsuspecting owners have found that it's simply not that cut and dry when they find themselves face-to-face with this problem.

There are no actual rights that belong to or protect squatters, but there are “loopholes” that make it easier for them to prevail. One of the most commonly used tactics is adverse possession.

Adverse possession is a law that allows the possession of a property to be obtained by someone other than the owner if they can prove they have had continuous, hostile, open, and notorious actual and exclusive possession and access of a property.

That sounds obnoxious, right? Of course it does, until you as a landlord sit and take inventory of the number of days you are away from an asset while it's vacant. The vacancy can be attributed to in-between tenants for landlords, and homeowners, continuous work, lifestyle, or similar related travel that allows you to be away from a property for an extended period.

While adverse action and similar laws are not directly created to protect squatters, again, it leaves an opportunity for them to bend it to their will and can cause such a financial and legal stir that it makes it simpler for owners to simply give up the fight and turn over possession.

How Can Landlords Prevent Squatters?

The 110% effective way to prevent squatters is to have responsible, on-time, and continuous paying tenants. However, that’s not always the case, and people can be crafty, so let’s talk about the second-best thing- understanding the laws and proper management.

The best way to face an issue is to know everything you possibly can about it. Research and understand what your state and local laws say about squatters’ rights. Although there are no outlined rights for them, the practice has become so common, a lot of the laws are being recognized as such.

Understand what you could be up against. Knowing this information will allow you to work backwards to understand how to prevent the issue. Some of the most common and efficient ways are mitigating vacancy loss, keeping constant tabs on any vacant properties in your portfolio. For primary homeowners this means recognizing what's going on with vacation homes especially if they aren't being utilized as short term rental properties. And, if you travel often, keep someone informed who may be open to check out your residences occasionally for unexpected activity.

Who Can Help Investors Fight Against Squatters?

Aside from being a highly active and present landlord, the next best thing is to partner with a property management company who can act as an extension of you. Property management partners are great at not only helping investors meet and exceed their budgeted profit margins. They are instrumental in protecting your asset in every way possible. This includes mitigating vacancy loss and maintaining the property physically to ensure that it does not appear abandoned. One of the key things squatters look for is unattended property.

National Real Estate Management Group is a property management company that specializes in squatter prevention by embracing your asset and making it the absolute best it can possibly be. Our team of astute professionals focuses on tenant selection, tenant retention and property maintenance.

It's important to note that the reasons for protecting squatters can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific laws and regulations in place. Not all jurisdictions provide the same level of protection for squatters, and the reasons for protection can be complex and multifaceted. However, NREMG maintains consistency in their endeavors to ensure that our clients do not fall victim.

Are you an investor looking for squatter prevention? Contact us and learn how we can help you protect your assets.