Squatter problems? We understand.
As fun as owning a home in Burbank may sound, it is also a lot of hard work. You are responsible for taking care of the property including maintenance, filing tax papers, registering with the local authorities etc. The list goes on. That’s why most landlords prefer to let out to tenants. Tenants are never the cause of law related problems (or so you hope) as they are living in your house legally. Squatters, on the other hand, are another story. They are unwelcome guests who never want to leave. More aptly, they are the people who never had permission to stay in your house in the first place, including those who stay on your property without your knowledge. They could be individuals your tenants have allowed to stay on the property through subletting (not part of the agreement), or strangers who’ve just found your house empty and decided to live there.
So how do you get rid of squatters without getting on the wrong side of the law?
It’s not easy, but here are some tips on how to deal with this difficult situation, in a calm and rational manner. Take a deep breath, and read on.
Before we get to what you can or should do, it is important to know what you shouldn’t do.
When landlords find squatters on their properties, they instinctively act in a reactive manner. Some of the things they do include:
- Intimidate the squatters or threaten them;
- Put padlocks so squatters can’t get in; or
- Shut down all the utilities.
All of these fall into the category of taking action by yourself which could end up in you getting fined in court, so avoid them at all costs.
Squatters, as you must realize by now, are sneaky, and pestilent (yes it’s rude but true). The smart way to deal with them is to beat them at their own game. If you’re uncertain how to go about these actions, refer to an expert property management company.
a.Take Preventive Action
Try to avoid facing such a situation from the start. If you are leaving your house unattended and vacant for whatever reason, make sure it is completely secure and ensure that you, someone you know or a property manager to keep regular checks on it.
b. Take Immediate Action
In the event of finding out strangers living in your previously vacant property, follow these steps:
Step 1: Call the Police
Call the police as soon as you learn about the squatter because the more time you take in doing so, the court may rule that the squatter was living in your home with your consent. If the police do not deal with them immediately, and declare the scenario as a civil matter, promptly begin the process of eviction.
Step 2: Eviction Notice
Upon receiving the eviction notice, there is a good chance that the squatter might leave, which means the matter is resolved. In the off chance that the squatter stays, you’ll have to evict them through formal means, which is filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This will have to be done in accordance with the laws of California, or the state you’re living in. As long as you take prompt and smart action, you will most likely win the lawsuit. Afterall, the property is yours and someone was living in it without your permission!
Step 3: Squatter Properties
Most of the time, squatters leave behind certain items or properties. The smart course of action is to find out what you are allowed to do with them according to the law instead of getting rid of them all (which could lead to fresh new problems you don’t want to deal with). For instance, as per Civil Code section 1965, landlords in California have a duty to take care of the aforementioned property until the tenant or squatter takes it back through the established procedure. So, avoid throwing away what’s left behind unless you’re sure you won’t suffer later.
c. Take Careful Action
As a landlord, you may also face the problem of your tenant letting someone else live with them, even though you did not give them permission to sublet. In such a situation, it is wise to be careful. If you are sure the tenant is no longer there even though s/he never mentioned moving out, proceed with the assumption that the tenant is still in possession. This means you would pursue the common court possession route to get possession of your property back.
The problem with this scenario is that if you take matters into your own hands, and the tenant comes back, the court will find you to be in the wrong, and you will have to let the tenant or his/her squatter stay. The benefit of a possession order is that it applies to anyone inside your property, irrespective of who they are. So, take the careful route and act with caution.
An apple a day
Finding out that squatters are living in your rental property is never a pleasant experience for landowners, and most of the time, the process of removing them can be very annoying and difficult. However, if you follow the aforementioned steps to rid your house of squatters, you are sure to be done with the matter sooner than if you took matters into your own hands. The best cure is to prevent them from getting on to your property in the first place!