Vacant rental homes can attract a whole mess of trouble. It is every property owner’s nightmare come true once you have your tenant move out and no one steps in right away because those vacant rooms look very attractive to trespassers and squatters. By definition, a squatter is a person who unlawfully occupies an uninhabited building or unused land. In simple terms for homeowners, a squatter is a person who settles on your property without your consent. Sometimes, it could even be a former tenant who chooses to stay on the property without making rent after their lease has expired or been terminated.
These unlawful occupants pose a serious risk to your Newport News rental property and your ability to lease it to new renters. The best way to avoid squatters is to keep your property secure. It is critical to keep a close eye on your empty properties to make sure they remain unoccupied at least until you find someone to rent it to legally. Make sure you are checking on it regularly, or, hire a property management company to do the checking for you.
If you learn a squatter, call the police right away and tell them the problem. They usually go away if the authorities catch them early enough. The longer you let a squatter to stay on your property, the more difficult it is to evict them because the courts might consider your uncertainty to evict as a sign of consent. Another potential complication arises if the squatter has turned on utilities at that address in their name. In some places, doing so establishes residency, even though the squatter is technically stealing your property. If that occurs, the police will then treat the situation a civil and not a criminal matter.
In the off chance that the police can’t be of any help, the next step is to serve the unlawful occupant with an eviction notice. Surprisingly, just by giving notice it does work, and it would even encourage the squatter to move on without a fight. However, there have been cases in which this is not enough, and you have then had to have an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which will start formal eviction proceedings. Depending on the speed of the court system in your area, this could take anywhere from several weeks or even longer. But, once you have a judgment in your favor from the court, you can have the local sheriff or police officer to remove the squatter for you.
Once you have successfully evicted your squatters, you then have to think about addressing their personal property. Whether they leave willingly or are forcibly removed, they may leave their belongings behind. Depending on where the rental home is located, you can remove it carefully and put it in a storage facility at your expense. If the squatter doesn’t pay the storage fees and claim their property, then you have the right to auction it off or dispose of it as the law in your area dictates.
Dealing with squatters can become time-consuming, stressful and expensive. Which is why proactive prevention is the best way to deal with unlawful occupants. At Real Property Management VA Peninsula, we skillfully manage the move-out process when tenants leave and fill vacancies quickly. After all, an occupied rental house is a profitable, squatter-free rental house. For more information about our Newport News property management services, contact us online or call us at 757-251-9188 today.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.