Vacant rental homes are a potential threat to property owners. As soon as your tenant moves out, and you have no one to take their place immediately, then those empty rooms will start to entice trespassers and squatters. By definition, a squatter is a person who unlawfully occupies an uninhabited building or unused land. To put it in simpler terms for homeowners, you have a squatter when you have someone who is settling in on your property without your consent. In some situations, squatters may even be a former tenant who opts to stay on the property without spending for rent after their lease has expired or been terminated.
These unlawful occupants pose a grave risk to your Austin rental property and your ability to lease it to new renters. The best way to keep squatters out of your property is to keep your property secure and to be vigilant of it. If your property is empty and, in a location that is far from where you live, and you can’t take regular trips to check on the place, you better hire a property management company to look after it for you.
As soon as you find out you have a squatter, it is imperative that you promptly report it to the police. The longer you allow a squatter to stay on your property, it will be a lot more difficult to evict them because the courts might view your indecision to evict as a sign of consent. One other likely obstacle arises if the squatter has turned on utilities at that address in their name. In some places, doing so establishes residency, even though the squatter is theoretically seizing your property. If that occurs, the police will then recognize the situation a civil and not a criminal matter.
If in case the police won’t be of any help to you, your next solution is to serve the unlawful occupant with an eviction notice. Every so often, simply giving notice will solve the squatter problem. If that won’t work, however, there may be a need for you to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which will kick things off with formal eviction proceedings. Depending on the speed of the court system in your area, this could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. As soon as you have a judgment in your favor from the court, you can then let the local sheriff or police officer to remove the squatter for you.
Once you have successfully evicted your squatters, you may need to address their personal property. Whether they leave willingly or are forcibly removed, they may leave their belongings behind. Depending on where the rental home is located, you may be able to throw these items away simply. However, in some places, you may need to place the items in a storage unit at your expense. If the squatter doesn’t pay the storage fees and claim their property, then you have the right to auction it off or dispose of it as the law in your area dictates.
Dealing with squatters can take a lot of time, taking up your valuable time and you may have to spend money to resolve the problem. This is why proactive prevention is the best approach to unlawful occupants. At Real Property Management LoneStar, we skillfully manage the move-out process when tenants leave and fill vacancies quickly. After all, an occupied rental house is a profitable, squatter-free rental house. For more information about our Austin property management services, contact us online or call our Austin office at 512-520-9060 or our Dallas office at 972-949-2000.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.