With stories of undocumented aliens becoming bolder and bolder in squatting on homeowners properties, along with our fellow citizens finding creative ways to claim they have “leased” a property, there are creative ways to avoid this, or at least make it easier to have people removed when or if this happens.

A client recently hired our team to assist with a squatter that had not only attempted to move in, but also forged documents claiming the home was sold to the squatter. I’ve put some thought into some simple ideas that may protect you from having this happen.

Whether you are an heir to a home that is sitting vacant, or you have homes that you rent out, not a day goes by where there isn’t a story about people having their homes, or rental properties invaded by squatters.

Oftentimes, the squatter produces a fake lease that was likely created online. When the Police arrive, and the owner says that they have no lease with this person, the Police will often say, you’ll have to take them to court, or worst case scenario, the homeowner could be arrested for changing the locks or trying to take self help against the squatters.

Based on the experiences we’ve had with this issue, here are a few tips on how to potentially avoid this issue:

  • Keep the utilities on – We’ve had clients who allowed a handyman to enter a home, take up residence, and turn on the water and electricity in the squatters name. The homeowner is unable to turn off the utilities or water or may face arrest. Oftentimes, utilities will allow for “vacation” modes to keep the utilities connected for only a connection fee.
  • Create a lease – I recommend to clients to lease their vacant home to themselves, especially if the home is owned under an LLC or other entity, as well as record the lease with the county and always have a copy of the lease. There’s no reason preventing an owner from creating a lease for five to ten years. it’s doubtful the squatters lease would be superior to this lease. This issue seems to be what most homeowners/heirs struggle with, that they have allowed the utilities to be turned off, and there’s nothing but a title on the property.
  • Install an alarm, and especially have all the windows covered, including the 2nd story. Squatters will attempt to disable the alarms so it’s important to have a separate alarm not solely connected to the home’s power. Have a battery backup, and ensure that you have monitoring in case anyone breaks in, the police can quickly be called.
  • Use a video doorbell along with other monitoring cameras. There are tons of options out there, including wireless and solar cameras that are inexpensive to buy, install, and monitor.

I’ve embedded 2 online articles below of recent issues homeowners have dealt with, along with a story from a Venezuelan immigrant telling followers on Tik Tok how to begin invading vacant homes. You may be able to get the squatters out of the house, but it will be expensive, yet less expensive to protect your property from invaders/squatters.

Homeowner arrested for changing locks

Undocumented Aliens approach to taking over abandoned homes

The opinions expressed in this article are that of the authors, is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to act as legal advice absent the existence of a retainer agreement. Laws vary by state, and constantly change. Please seek outside legal counsel to determine if any of these recommendations would apply to your individual situation.