Are you dealing with a situation where squatters have taken refuge in your home and now refuse to leave? While it may sound unlikely, this happens more often than you’d think…especially in California. Virtually the only way to guarantee that this never happens to you is to never leave your home vacant. But, we know very well that this is sometimes unavoidable. There are many ways in which squatters come to arrive in people’s homes across the country, but here are a few scenarios that are prevalent today:

Scenario #1: You have a vacation rental in San Diego, CA that you list on sites like Airbnb and you rent to vacationers and other short-term tenants. One day, you agree to rent out your vacation home to an individual for a month-long stay. Once he was in, he texted you saying that he wasn’t going to leave. If we were in your shoes, we know how frustrating and confusing that can be “What do you mean, you aren’t leaving MY house?” Well, he paid you in advance for his 30 days and California does have a law that says people who have lived in a home for longer than 30 days are tenants…even if they aren’t paying you! In this case, you would be best off hiring a lawyer and evicting the tenant after the 30 days.

Scenario #2: In other cases, your home has sat vacant for too long and the wrong kind of people have noticed. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of these situations and pose as landlords or property agents in order to rent out YOUR property…even though they have no legal right to do so. The squatters living in your house may think that they are literally doing nothing wrong because they have been making payments and did sign agreements that appeared to be legitimate.

Scenario #3: Similar to Scenario #2- your house has been unoccupied for an extended period of time (maybe you have been having a hard time renting it out, or it is in foreclosure) and people have literally entered and moved in. Many times, this will be homeless people looking for shelter. Without any documentation stating they are allowed to be there, it should be easy to force them out…right? Often times, no, that is not correct at all. Squatters will put the utilities in their name, and even forge up fake rental agreements from the internet.

Answer this important question to help determine the difference between squatters in trespassers:

Did the person break any windows or doors, or use force in general to gain access to your house? If the answer is yes and it can be easily shown or proven to a law enforcement officer, then you have a trespasser on your hands. In this case, call the police and they will remove and arrest the individual. If the answer is no, or has “grey area,” you will likely need to take legal action.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do in Removing Squatters

Don’t do this:

  • Put locks on the property- legally you can run into issues here.
  • Don’t shut off the utilities that they have turned on- without utilities, the squatters could start fires in your home and create even more property damage.
  • Confront them verbally or try to intimidate them – there is too much liability in doing this, and you don’t know what this person or these people are capable of.

Try this:

  • Contact the person via a written notice and ask him or her to leave the property. Tell him he is a trespasser and is not welcome in your house. This is a great first step because it can serve as evidence later on that this person is in fact a trespasser. This can also prove that any documents the squatter tries to come up with are forged and not real.
  • Call the police! The longer you wait to do this, the more likely courts will question whether you gave consent for this person to be there. If the police don’t see that they have forced entry, proceed by following the eviction process.
  • If there is no response to the first note, provide the squatter with a notice requesting him to pay rent within three days, or to leave. This notice must meet California’s requirements.
  • If the squatter does not pay or refuses to pay, you will need to file an unlawful detainer with the court. If you win in the courts or they fail to show up, you can request that the county sheriff evict them. They will then provide a last 5-day notice to leave, and if not, they will forcibly be removed and the locks will be changed.

The Nightmare in Selling a House with Squatters

Being no stranger to all of the drama and headache associated with squatters, we know the pains associated: the uncomfortable nature of having someone in your home, the fees you’ll need to pay to evict them, and the potential damage they will do to your house. In many cases, squatters who are reluctant to leave but forced to do so, will retaliate by destroying your property. It truly is a very terrible and stressful situation in dealing with real estate. Plus, if you’re trying to sell your vacant home during all of this, it can prove to be nearly impossible.

But, we can help you through it. Because we have been through this in California, we can help you get rid of your squatters by providing advice and resources or even by buying your house. We know that potential buyers will be scared away in having to deal with squatters in a home they just purchased, but it’s a situation that we can handle and are prepared to handle. So, if you’re thinking about selling and these squatters have made you lose hope in the process- we’re here to bring some light to the situation. You can still sell, and the squatter dilemma will officially be off of your plate and out of your hands.

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