Every city and state refers to and treats unwanted tenants differently, but most everyone can agree that if you’re a property owner dealing with squatters- it’s not fun. No one wants tenants in their property if they aren’t paying or aren’t supposed to be there. With that, why would some jurisdictions actually HELP squatters stay in your home? San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union which actually supports squatters in staying in your property longer. And with the rise of platforms like AirBNB and VRBO, the number of squatter cases is on the rise. Let’s walk through how this works and what the laws are in California…

The Difference between Squatter’s Rights in California

Those who have signed some kind of agreement:

In California, people who live in your property for a period of 30 days or more, are technically tenants (and have the same rights as tenants).  And while California may be more liberal than other states, it isn’t the only state with this law. As mentioned above, house sharing platforms have run into an issue with this because they often times rent out their homes for up to 30 days. There have been many cases where a “vacationer” signs a 30-day rental agreement, and then states they won’t leave after they’ve access the home. Under California Law, they do have the right not to leave after 30 days, which will force you to take legal action.

Those who have entered your home illegally while vacant:

If your rental property is sitting vacant and gets entered by trespassers, you can still run into the same issues mentioned above. Usually, trespassers can get away with inhabiting your property if they turn on utilities in their name. Some squatters are tricky enough to drum up fake rental agreements as well, making it that much more difficult to get rid of them.

Other types of squatters include an owner squatter or commercial squatter. An “owner squatter” is someone who owns the structure in which they are living, but not the land that it is on. This can be applicable to people with motor homes or tiny homes occupying land that is not their own. A “commercial squatter” is someone who occupies an area used for business without paying rent or taxes.

What to Know and Do if You Have a Squatter

Whether your unwelcomed tenant is a trespasser or someone who was a tenant who refuses to leave, here are some of the steps you should take in addressing the issue. To start, here’s what you should NOT do:

  • Put locks on doors and windows to lock them out
  • Shut off the utilities
  • Try to confront or intimidate them

Here are some steps that you should take:

  • First, try simply writing a letter to the trespassers letting them know they are trespassing and are not welcome. This may not work and isn’t required by law, but the longer paper trail you have against this person/people, the better.
  • Provide a notice to pay rent within three days, or be evicted- This notice must meet requirements by including amount to pay and must be hand delivered/posted visibly.
  • Call local enforcements- in some cases they will be able to remove the trespasser.
  • Serve the eviction notice and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. When filing the unlawful detainer, you must give the squatter five days’ notice that you will be doing so.
  • If you’ve won the lawsuit, hire a sheriff to forcefully (if need be) get them out.
  • Legally handle any belongings left behind at your property.
  • Now, ensure they can’t get back in. Make it difficult to enter the home by changing the locks and garage door code (whatever you can do to increase your property’s security).

However, things may have gotten easier as of recent years with an anti-squatter bill passed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014. This particular bill would make it a lot quicker and easier to get rid of squatters. The unfortunate aspect is that even if the process is sped up, there’s no guarantee that your property was protected or taken care of during the time of being occupied (and in most cases is actually neglected).

Say Goodbye to Your Squatter Woes for Good

If you’re an absentee landlord or someone who is tired of dealing with the headaches that can be bundled into being a landlord, please give us a call. Even if squatters are still in your home and you no longer want to deal with it, we can still buy the property and also assume responsibility of the problem. If you’re encountering problems with squatters it may be because your rental is sitting vacant for too long. Rather than paying the mortgage on a vacant property, consider selling direct to an investor like us and say goodbye to squatters for good.

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