No property owner wants to deal with squatters but every land owner who doesn't live on his own property might have to deal with the issue at some point. Squatters are people who live on someone else's property. What makes squatting a difficult issue is that land ownership law in many states gives squatters ownership rights over time. The longer a squatter is in a property and treats it like her own, the more difficult it is for the true owner to prove ownership. Laws change from state to state, but the general principles below are universal.
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Things you need
- A property lawyer
- A professional eviction service
- Ownership documents such as the property deed
Determine if the people on your property are squatters or trespassers. The definitions of each change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but, in general, if the residents have broken locks, doors or windows to gain entry, they are trespassing and can be charged with a crime. If they have simply set up house in what appears to be an abandoned building, they may have some rights as squatters.
Discuss the situation with your local police department once you have gathered as many facts as you can. They can help guide you with the legalities of the situation. If the residents are breaking the law, the police can go in and arrest them and return control of your property over to you.
Contact a property lawyer. If the police are unable to resolve the situation, a lawyer experienced in squatters' rights will be able to assist you in reclaiming your property. You will have to provide proof of ownership, so have all of your documents from the purchase of the property including title or deed. Although it is an unlikely situation, your lawyer will be able to check title to ensure that the squatters have not done anything official to cloud the ownership issue.
Physically evict the squatters. Regardless of the status of the legal situation, it is important to reclaim physical ownership of the property. Do not confront squatters on your own as this could be a dangerous situation. Hire a professional eviction company to clear your property. They are trained in confrontational situations and know how to handle it. Immediately change all locks on doors and windows to prevent re-entry of the squatters.
Discuss next steps with your lawyer. In most jurisdictions, this will include filing a repossession claim with the county or superior court in your district. Be prepared to provide all of your ownership documents. This filing will help to re-establish your ownership rights over the property. After that, the police will be able to re-evict any squatters if necessary.
Tips and warnings
- Check on your properties on a regular basis to ensure they are secure. The longer a squatter lives on your property, the more rights he is likely to have.
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