After a year and a half of eviction moratoriums, many landlords find themselves wondering how to handle nonpaying tenants versus squatters.
And, for that matter, what the difference is between squatters, trespassers, and defaulting renters.
Deni and Brian explain the differences, and more importantly, how landlords can remove each from their investment properties.
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Deni: Welcome, everyone.
Brian: Happy Tuesday, at least if you’re joining us live on Facebook. So last week, we had the pleasure of having Rachel Hernandez of adventuresinmobilehomes.com on the show. She’s also known as the mobile home gurl spelled with a U By the way, for those listening and we had a blast, we talked about how to invest in mobile homes and how it’s way cheaper than investing in single family homes. And the returns are higher because you don’t have that much competition. It was a great, great conversation. If you guys missed it, then definitely go back and check out that episode of the podcast. And today we were talking about squatters versus trespassers versus tenants as well, you know, erstwhile tenants who be behind or otherwise are not performing. So, we’ll talk about their rights and your rights as a landlord, how to get them out of your property. Because we get a lot of questions about this, both in our Facebook groups and, you know, just people reaching out to us in general, talking about how do I get someone out of my property? I never signed a lease with them, but they’re there, right? So, Deni, let’s start with just a quick definition. You know, what is the difference between a trespasser and a squatter?
Deni: Well, basically a trespasser is somebody who goes into your property and lives in it without any permission and not claiming ownership kind of breaking and entering or something like that.
Brian: Have to live there, right? I mean, someone could trespass for five minutes.
Deni: Yeah, yeah. That’s called breaking and entering. Yeah, right? That’s where the cops are going. We’re a squatter. They kind of live on the property. And yeah, definite timing has definite play in most cases. And it’s generally property owner who just kind of leaves it and doesn’t inspect it, doesn’t do anything, doesn’t mow the lawn, doesn’t do anything. And then somebody comes along and kind of stakes a claim more or less by mowing the lawn, getting electric in their name and so forth and so on, they start taking care of the land.
Brian: So, squatters establish residency there.
Deni: Pretty many trespassers. Right now, state laws are all different in how this works and adverse possession that can be superseded. There are local laws that come into play here. A lot of your cities, New York City and Philly, how to be pretty precise on this because there was a lot of abandoned city properties where, you know, they became drug infested and homeless people and whatnot. And just, yeah, so it became a little bit different for the cities.
Brian: Real quick, let’s define adverse possession for people because not everyone is familiar with that. You know that legalese term in real estate?
Deni: Well, adverse possession is where you get possession without purchasing it, basically.
Brian: So, if someone squats in a property long enough, they can take legal ownership of the property if they squat there for a certain number of years, and that number varies by state law. Right. It could be seven years in some states, 20 20 years in another state.
Deni: usually is pretty long term. And I’ll give you a quick example. I managed a pretty large apartment community in the suburbs here, and there was a chunk of land in the back, just open grass area and backed into another man’s grass area. Well, that gentleman parked cars there. He started mowing it and everything else. Well, he ended up taking the owners of the apartment complex and They came back, and they had asked him to move his stuff, and he ended up taking them to court to make a long story short, because he showed that he was maintaining it and he was using it. He was given by adverse possession. He was given the property so that property then became his. So, he kind of that is a kind of an example of squatting.
Brian: Sure. Absolutely. All right. So, tell us, why does this matter the difference between a trespasser and a squatter? You know, what’s the tangible difference for landlords?
Deni: Well, I mean, the biggest is you can lose your property. I mean, that’s your biggest problem. And there are some very laws, so you really have to keep an eye on it. One of the biggest differences is trespassers more or less are almost committing a crime. So, they don’t have any right. They’re not claiming any right. They’re just kind of busting through and hang in there without any right to the property where a squatter claims ownership. So, they actually go into the property, and they will fix it up live There moving their fam and they will eventually take possession. Now there are certain criteria, and again, it’s it differs state by state and look out, look out by local. What makes a landlord giving up possession? Like, what are they doing that makes it abandon more or less? So how has this landlord abandoned it? And so many There’s different variables, but for the most part, it’s they ignore it.
Brian: So, but as far as how to remove intruders from your property, there’s a huge difference between removing trespassers versus removing squatters, right?
Deni: There can be they can also be kind of similar. You know, there’s so if a trespasser, if somebody breaks and enters into your rental property, that’s, you know, you had tenants that just moved out and somebody broke in there. The police will be called if somebody moves in there and you haven’t been paying attention to, they’re living in there for a couple of weeks. You may have to, depending on your state, you may have to go through the eviction procedures. So, a lot of different variables take place and there are similarities and squatters and trespassers. So, you’ve got to be careful. Like, you can’t just go in and move them out. You can verbally ask them. But I would be careful, especially with trespassers.
Brian: I’m sure you get attacked, theoretically. I mean, yeah, your person could be assaulted. But yeah, but that’s the really the big difference for landlords is that you can call the cops on trespassers to have them kicked out by the cops immediately, Squatters need to be evicted just as if they were normal tenants, so squatters somehow are given the same legal rights as actual tenants who signed a contract with you, at least contract with you, which is very frustrating for a lot of landlords who said, You know, I never, you know, I never signed a contract with this person. I never allowed them to move into my property and take possession of it. But now I have to go through the months long eviction process to get them out.
Deni: with squatters, there could be even more involved than just an eviction. You might need an attorney at this point, depending how long it’s gone.
Brian: Right, so, you know, to circle back around, it’s really about the length of time that someone has occupied your property, whether they are a trespasser, whether they are a squatter, whether there is a risk of them taking legal ownership of your property through adverse possession. So, you know, if someone has been there long enough to establish residency there, then they’re a squatter and you have to evict, you can’t just call the cops and have the cops kick them out instantly.
Deni: I mean, what was it? Colonial times? People You know, plop their horse and buggy and stake their claim on a piece of land, built their home and it became theirs, so it’s more or less kind of what it is, you know, a property is sitting, it’s abandoned, somebody goes in, they take care of it, landlord doesn’t check on it. And before you know it, you have a whole big issue here. So yes, it could be a big problem as opposed to a trespasser.
Brian: All right. So how can landlords prevent trespassers and squatters from entering the property?
Deni: Well, the first thing is to keep an eye on the property. Don’t ever just assume it’s OK. I mean, I have had properties I don’t think I’ve ever not knew what was going on any more than a week. Yet you do see people who do, who don’t they just, you know. The pipes break, all kinds of things are happening, and they don’t know.
Brian: That goes for your primary residence too, not just rental properties, you know, like snowbirds who leave town for six months. Oh yeah, at a time. I mean, we have friends internationally who own a property back in the U.S. own a home back in the U.S. that they do not rent out. They leave it vacant so that when they’re home for a couple of months out of the year, they can spend, they’ll go there. But the property is sitting vacant like nine or 10 months out of the year, and people could have been moved in the day After you leave and you come back 10 months later, they will have long established residency there.
Deni: Yeah, it’s true. And there are things obviously you can do is you get a security system. I mean, they’re very easy right now, and it’s if they’re not even expensive at this point with some video to make sure that nobody is going in and out. And then if somebody is, then you can call the police immediately and say, you know, on my what’s that doorbell one? Saw somebody going in and out, right? The other thing is if you find out somebody is in there, get right on that. Don’t just hem and haw. I mean, you want to either contact an attorney, call the cops, just get right on it. I mean, I will tell you that if they’re there long term and a cop goes out there and they show him like an electric bill with their name on it, because I’ve seen this happen, even in domestic situations where two roommates are fighting, a cop will say, this isn’t my jurisdiction. You have to take that to court, so you may not even have that to help you. So, yeah, so you want to stay on top of this and start things immediately. Don’t wait. And then obviously, you want to screen your tenants. Squatters will tend to be those professional tenants that we talk about. They know their rights, they know the law
Brian: you know, every loophole,
Deni: Right. So, you know what a great way to get into real estate investing. Just kidding. You want to know your laws, local and state laws regarding this situation because they’re different. Some cities have really tight laws with this stuff, and some cities will find a landlord, a property owner for neglecting and abandoning a property because they’re trying to get things cleaned up. So, you’ve got to be careful with that, too. And if you’re an out-of-town investor, you want to hire a property manager, you want to hire somebody or have somebody in those locations that are keeping an eye on things. Because if you’re far away and you know you don’t know what’s going on this you would be a definite mark for this.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, this is why, for example, we partnered with Drew SIGINT of Michigan for our investing deals. He’s the boots on the ground guy. You know, he’s the local expert, the local person who is the eyes and ears and who is keeping a tab on the property. You know, this is why Deni, and I aren’t going out and just buying properties all over the country without having partnerships in place in those places. So, all right. Deni Is there anything else that you want to say about trespassers versus squatters before we call this episode complete?
Deni: Just, you know, keep your eye on your properties and know the difference. There’s a very, very slight difference between the two. another trespasser could be a roommate who has somebody else living there that you didn’t authorize, which we called unauthorized. men may have a fight and guess who’s lap button, so just be aware. You know, what do we say? Visit your properties often to know what’s going on in them
Brian: Lives twice a year. Visit your properties at least twice a year. And it’s not just about checking up on your tenants do. It’s also about checking for repair issues because tenants are not necessarily very good at letting you know about problems at the property. So, you need to go through and look for necessary repairs problems to the property. Obviously, look for lease infractions. You know that that sweet tenant who brings in her deadbeat boyfriend, you know,
Deni: Or the 17 family members in a two-bedroom apartment
Brian: That happened before, too.
Deni: So, it was interesting. And that’s it.
Brian: All right, guys We’ll stay in touch this message over Facebook. You can email us at Sparkrental.com Happy Thanksgiving.
Deni: Yes. Otis, he’s going to tell everybody. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Brian: We’ll see you next Tuesday. Have a good one. Bye bye.