How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.


Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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614 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • sharon r bower

    I’m tired of all this edition nonsense. How do we go about changing these laws. These squatters, non payers and just plain lossers have no right to cost us money and refuse to pay the rent and continue to damage what is the lawful owner property.
    Enough ! The laws need to change. Where do we start!
    I give enough to charities. It is not charitable to allow someone to continue to do bad things.

    • sharon r bower

      Spell check got me. It eviction, not edition.

      • Laura Agadoni

        Hi Sharon,
        I suppose we would speak with our state representative to work on getting a law in place, as was done in Michigan in 2014:

        • Lue bell

          Having same problems I rent a apt. That’s a house connected to 5apts. N rite next door there’s this man in a one BDRM swatting n the lady lives there the landlord told him to leave by the 1st this month he’s still here n he’s nothing but problems he brings ppl here his daughter is a prostuitute n her pimp comes arnd n there always yelling n its just a big problem n men my girl don’t bother no1 n we stay to ureslves what to do?????hummmmm??? Any help

          • Justin B

            Call the police every night multiple times until they leave. Then go secure your asset. You have the right to secure your asset regardless if trespassers are entering. Then when they come back call the cops and the locks will be changed. They will not be let in and thr cops will call it civil. If they file charges show up and bring pictures and let the judge know what happen. Bring the local news to the court hearing and see what the judge does then. Ive done this and case was dismissed the squatter was also arrested for Unpermitted Forceful Entry, Vandalism and Theft. He ended doing 2 years in prison. You have to be willing to take a stance though. Worst case scenario the judge is a liberal POS and he allows thrm to move back in and you have evict the guy. Judges are not usualky ass holes to the landlords when this happens.

        • sharon r bower

          I think changing the laws so that they favor the landlord will be more productive than simply trying to hire a attorney to chase of these bums.
          We landlords should not have to spend money on attorneys to defend our legal property.
          Enough said. I’m going to start campaigning to get this done.

  • Jean O Hollander

    My 52 year old indigent daughter came to live with me. I am 72 and own my home. We were having a verbal arguement, no threats or violence. She called the Door County WI police sheriff’s and they came the first time and threatened someone will go to jail if they come sgain. 5 hours later and cooled down, I knocked and entered the room as before. She is an addict so I was very cautious. She refused to talk with me again. I returned to the front room The Sheriff came again, I asked him why? He said my daughter called him and said I threatened her. I never did. He said because she is without funds, and without a place to go in the middle of winter and because I entered the room, I was patted down, handcuffed and taken to jail.

  • Sharon G

    What if a property is vacant and owned by the lending co. (bank)? Does the lending company (bank) have any recourse? Do the laws also apply to the lending co. As well as a homeowner? My father is deceased and my step sister is worried about squatters at his home in OR. I live out of state and told the bank they need to foreclose on the property. There is no probate on the estate. The house is upside down regarding ownership. Does the law apply to bank ownership?
    Thank you

  • Joanne

    I gave my tenants a notice to vacate on 03/20/16. Instead of even trying to find another place they sent an old lease with new dates and said that it was valid! They sent it to me certified mail with a check that was dated for the same date 05/18/2016. I have the emails where they begged if they could stay until the end of June. if they had a valid lease then why were they asking to stay until June? I have so much proof that they falsified the lease I had the sheriff serve them a few days ago. I also sent an email to them about the fraud. I have thought of just knocking down the wall between apartments because the whole thing started from my 89 old mother needing a handicapped bathroom! They know she is struggling to make it!


    we came back to squatter and the po lice will not do anything to help. we dont know what to do so i started making reports of the activies on the property and sending them to the police they came out ut still havent done any thing so i am going to continue.
    have anyone here of the interm possision order

  • Paulette wellborn

    I tented a 2 car garage to sell off my stuff in storage. The next day i got a 90 day notice to quit where i was living. Seeing that i could not afford 3 garages my friend approached me and offered me 100 a month to store his boat. I thought about it being i had to sign a 12 month lease for thevnew 2 car garage. I said ok. Verbal agreement. The next month more junk no boat or $. He kept ignoring my request to remove his stuff. Ive cut my leg on in his junk. I called the cops after he became violent hitting my brother with boards. The cops told me not to go back until hes gone. He is a squatter now what do i do. Im disabled. Barely no $ for eviction. When i talk to this dude all i get is igornarance and blank stares

  • Alice

    My husband received a house in a Tranfer on Death deed when his mother passed away. The personal representative (his sister) never let him know about this because she didn’t want him to get anything. In the meantime, his brother had been living there and vacated in December2015 but let his stepson move in to keep squatters out. Now he’s the squatter. My husband just found out less than a month ago that he owns the house. We have to have this guy removed before we can clean it and get it ready for selling. He’s never owned a property and doesn’t know what to do next. Any suggestions?

  • Salen Becerra

    I actually have a question about my situation I am a roomate of a gentleman who is on the lease and has been taken to jail. as I just stated I’m not on the lease but I’ve been left to take care of the apartment and go through this eviction process for him. what I want to do is have the landlord transfer the lease in my name and if that’s not possible I need to be advised of squatters rights, now I’m not in an abandoned house I’m in an actual apartment complex would you be able to explain to me what it is I can do and what my squatters rights are here I’m not on the lease I don’t have anything in my name but I’ve gotten mail here for the last few months and my Oregon ID was set here and this is the address on my ID

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Salen,
      If you don’t get the lease put in your name and start paying rent, you need to get out now. Otherwise the landlord will evict you, and you’ll have that on your record. You don’t get to live somewhere for free without consequences.

  • Rachel

    Hi there. I’m hoping to help my father out of a situation that is turning nasty quickly. He owns his house and has lived in it for over 30 years. It has never been abandoned or vacant in any way. My fathers brother needed a place to stay so he started crashing at my dads house rent-free. Weeks turned into months that turned into years. My father is now tired of supporting his brother rent-free and would like him to move out, but his brother is saying he is squatting legally. What should my father do to evict his brother off his property? Thank you!

  • Robert Gravano

    I had a ten year tenant in a month to month rental. He moved out this month and left the apartment in a total mess and also left some items behind. When I contacted him he said he had removed all of his items and what was left he had given to an unauthorized person that just recently started staying with him and never was on the rental agreement. Now I want to have the apartment painted so that it can be rented to the next tenant but this prevents me from doing so. Yes, the laws need to be changed to give the good landlords more rights in situations like this. A non authorized person should not be allowed to still have belongings in the apartment. She’s not living there and the gas and electric have been shut off by the utility companies.

  • Inna

    I called police to remove the unpaying squatter without lease before 30 days of him staying, and they said there is nothing like legal kick out before 30 days :-( Now it’s been over a month. They also said it would be illegal to serve him a 3 day pay or quit notice. Sad that our law officers don’t know the law. We’re in SD, California.

    • Gina lyons

      As a homeowner what can we do about this wrongful law . It’s a shame our hands are tied the law knows their doing illegal things.hard on the homeowners . Theodore, al

      • Karen

        It’s because congressmen are getting paid by attorneys during the election process to keep the law this way. An attorney makes 10 grand in a day for these squatters who can’t even afford an attorney but give them 50% of their winnings. So the attorneys bribe the congressmen to not touch the laws. This needs to go to the Supreme Court.

  • Dora Perez

    We live in Fullerton California, and my family worked very hard to buy our home. We have ate any living here for six months this is the third month without paying rent, plus she is vandalizing our property, has trashed the outside of our guest house, has varies people sleeping over, or coming in the middle of the night jumping over our brick wall in the back of the house at all hours of the day and the law protects her, it’s so frustrating because she sky rockets our bills , barrages us and yells to our face that she’s not going no where, how can that be legal how and why is the law on the side of this person. This is the second time we put the unlawful detainer in and she literally laughs in our faces. When wI’ll we have the rights.

  • Elvis Ball

    i am going through the same thing and the other person left the property but was told by the cops and the owner of the property to have her stuff out in 30 days they have not done it and i called the sherriff now that it is going on 35 days and they said that i could get rid of it if i wanted because it now belongs to the owner , but my question is if i go ahead and get rid of it like the cops said to do can they have me re-arressted for doing so

  • Stephanie Rosa

    I was rented a home & it was a scam. I moved in friday night & the sheriff was here w/ a keller williams realtor monday morning to serve me with a trespass warning & gave me 30 days to move. They advised me that after the 30 days I will be charged w/ trespass & arrested if I am not out. I heard the realtor say this was a Freddie Mac Homepath foreclosure. Does she legally have the right to be here vs a bank rep & contest my lease with the officer? Can I be arrested after living here 30 days? I paid first last & security. I am out almost $5000.00 & have to move in less than 10 days. I do receive mail here & someone had put a hold on all mail coming to the home luckily I caught the mail carrier and asked and got my mail. What are my options??

  • Stephanie Rosa

    Also… I live in Florida…

  • Stephanie Rosa

    They were here. They were the ones that told me I had 30 days. Took a report and says he has 6 other cases. All hispanic families. Also they said this happens so much in florida that they don’t really spend too much time on these cases. Basically buyer or in this case renter beware and lesson learned.

  • Kyo Williams

    I have these people who are allowed to stay here because of my parents. They don’t pay rent because they lost their jobs. They don’t clean as well. I get stuck cleaning and paying for the rent myself along with my parents. They are living in the dinning room on a fold out couch. The apartment is small to begin with. It’s a 2 bedroom apartment. The rooms go to my sister and parents. I’m stuck sleeping on a couch though I pay to live here. I pay them to also get back and forth to work. I want to move out. I don’t get privacy and they do. They are allowed to call that their room but as soon as I claim my area I’m yelled at. They also keep me up all hours of the night when I have work. My mom does not stay up to them because she hates conflict.

  • tabatha

    NO HELP, I found 4 squatters at my rent house one day and I told them they were not suppose to be there an that I have 5 keep out and no trespassing signs up posted in plain sight all over and around the house and we were all nice about it they said they would leave an they were sorry and they left about 45 minutes later, then about 2 days later they returned and vandalized my house inside an outside an trashed the yard an was taking stuff in an out of my house the neighbor contacted me on the 3rd day ,I went over to my rent house an found it vandalized an dogs inside my house, cops came, animal control came but no one was there my neighbor said they were coming an going from my rent house around 1am – around 5am cops wont help me,will you?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tabatha

      Sorry to hear about the situation? We don’t provide legal advice so I’m not really sure what you asking of us. This website acts as a forums for others to discuss rental situations. If you have damages, you should file a police report and then talk to a lawyer about your options. Hopefully, you have insurance, which should kick in here.

  • Confused in UpstateNY

    I have a unique situation. My wife’s grandparents died a long time ago and since then, before us, “squatters” have taken over the home. We then ‘squatted’ in there and paid off the lien in the late grandfathers name. We’ve been ‘squatting’ there ever since, raising a family and keeping to ourselves. We are not a menace or distractions to our community and our children are loved and raised with good morals. It’s been over 10yrs that we ‘squatted’ into this home, rent free. The property that the home sits on is actually owned by the wife’s mother. She just took us to court to evict our whole family out of the grandparents home so they can move in. Of course we’re fighting it… but it don’t seem right that we have to move out. Help?

  • Advice needed

    A served tenants a 3day pay or quit and they ended up leaving but when I went to check on the house to find out what was going on, I found other individuals living there. I’ve told them that they need to leave they said that they were but it has been 3 days now and they are still there. Will calling the cops help in any way? What can I do to get them out? Property is in California.

  • Trina

    After researching the laws here in Mississippi, I found out that squatters have to reside in a place for 10 years. I researched because there are many abandoned homes in residential neighborhoods and near schools here! They have become either drug havens, hideouts, or just an overall eyesore to the community!! The problem I am having is: If someone from the neighborhood decides, that after many years of abandonment, they want to maintain the property as if it was theirs for let’s say, 5 years. The OWNER can then come back into the picture after someone else has spent money and time. Is there any reimbursement to be given back to the “SQUATTER”? Or will the owner get to profit from a technicality?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Trina,
      You can’t do work and then charge someone after the fact for something they didn’t agree to. If you wish to work on someone’s house to make improvements, you’ll need to have approval and a contract in place from the owner first.

  • Ronda J

    My mother allowed a friend who was hard on his luck sleep in her garage until he could get back on his feet. 3 years later, he is still there and has accumulated a girlfriend now living there with him as well as 3 dogs. They have taken over the garage and the back yard for their purposes. They give my mom $300 per month to offset the cost for electricity and water. They are allowed in her home to use the shower and restroom. He has become increasingly disrepectful and screams at her when he is upset about her entering the yard. She wants to get him out but not sure of the law in California for allowing someone to stay in an illegal dwelling not suitable for renting. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

  • Den

    I’m property mgr for a house owned by a family who had allowed their own family member to stay in the home, 3rd generation son, no signed lease. The son died suddenly, and the son’s girlfriend is now squatting in the home refusing to leave. Regular eviction laws don’t pertain since she had no lease, nor any legal connection to BF. But here in San Francisco, 30 days tenancy equals tenant, paying rent or not, so we can’t just ask her to leave thru normal channels. WTF? Now it’s time for lawyers, and in the meantime, she easily can strip the house of the family antiques and property without us being able to do anything about it unless we have it watched 24 hrs a day and call the sheriff dept if we see things leaving. UGH

  • Sharra Luella Moller

    A man living in his car with 4 dogs asked if he could stay in my barn until ?? I said OK, when I went to clean up a house across town in order to rent it, he was living there. I tried to work something out with him since he agreed to do all kinds of work, but didn’t. Shortly, I asked the sheriff to remove him. Sheriff said since I tried to work with him I had to evict him like anyone else. Today, I have a person renting an RV space take over the space next to him. So, I called the sheriff right away so that they could do something. Now, they say it’s a civil matter and I have to handle it myself. How do I handle it myself? I don’t know what to do.

  • Danace Mace

    I live on a family-owned property but the home I live in is my sisters she lives next door to me my nephew has been homeless for about two-and-a-half years he wanted to stay for about 2 weeks he went to jail right after he got here he’s been she got out I let him he said two weeks should be here for he won’t stay in the house he wants to stay outside on the carport so and now I can’t get him out of here he’s doing drugs illegally up there and I want him gone he won’t clean it up he I don’t know what to do I just I feel bad for him but I can’t do this anymore I can’t allow it I’m embarrassed I’m afraid of the neighbors you know I know I don’t know what to do and I don’t want my sister to know about it I’ve given him a time limit to leave he

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Danace,
      Call the police.

      • Tessa Ballard

        That doesn’t work in Texas because you allowed him to stay you must file eviction even if they have never paid rent and you want them.out they don’t have to.move until they go to court. Then I think they can stay.for an additional 30 days. After court

        • Suzanne

          I agree with Laura Agadoni. Call the police…let them know he is using illegal drugs you are frightened for your safety. The police will arrest him because because his actions are probably a direct violation of his probation.

    • Report him to the police.

      When he uses drugs there call the police on him. They can do something about that. And if you report it and as long as you are not taking the drugs too then you won’t be arrested.

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