Defense Against Crime

22/07/2016

What to do when strangers move into your house!

After two long weeks away on vacation, you’re finally home. It was a great trip, but now

"She says she's got squatters rights."

you’re at the front door of your residence. You open your front door and take a step inside. Then you notice that something’s wrong. The lights are on, but you don’t have a timer rigged up. There’s a half a box of pizza and some drinks on your coffee table and a bath towel draped over the back of your lazy-boy. You’re hit with a jolt of adrenaline — a burglar’s been in your home. Before you can react, a guy wanders into the room. He’s wearing your favorite bath robe. “Who are you?” he asks.

You scan the apartment. Yes, this is your place. Your stuff’s all here, but it’s being used by someone else. Friend, you’ve got yourself a squatter.  The squatter may not be a cute little girl who ate your porridge, sat in your chairs, and slept in your bed.

Your home is where you should feel safe. It is where you let your guard down and perform your most personal routines. It is where you are most vulnerable. So what if someone broke into your house and was hiding somewhere? It’s the stuff of urban legends, but the following stories are anything but fictional.

Squat happens

Think this is an urban myth .. it is not. It happens. You can actually google stories of this. Perhaps you heard the story of A Washington state man made that made a startling discovery when he arrived at his home a few weeks ago.

Davis Wahlman, of Green Lake, said that when he got to his house he found a couple of lights on and his bathroom window screen in his tub, but said nothing strange dawned on him until he heard some noises coming from his attic the next morning.

“I am kind of jolted out of bed,” Wahlman said. “I hear rummaging around above me, which I know is the attic so I’m like ‘That’s kind of weird.'”

Wahlman tried to figure out what in fact was going on and noticed a light that was on in his office space. The door was locked and when he knocked, he got no response. He then heard a woman’s voice coming from the room.

“‘Jimmy? Is that you, Jimmy?'” Wahlman explained. “I’m like ‘No, it’s not Jimmy. Who is this and why are you in my house?'”

One of the residents of my subdivision had something similar to this happen to him. He came home to find someone sleeping in his home.

Now you think, that’s OK I’ll just call the police…and get them out.  Not so quick.

If police find squatters, there’s not a whole lot they can do. Police uphold criminal law. Squatting is a civil crime. Civil law is worked out in the courts. Once police determine that a squatter has established some sort of tenancy, the issue becomes a civil matter. By settling into a home in a generally respectable manner, a squatter can create the appearance of tenants’ rights. This appearance alone can confound an easy rousting of squatters.

What is a squatter?

Squatters are people who move into abandoned, foreclosed, or otherwise unoccupied homes or premises. Generally, under United States law, the owners can have a squatter evicted for violating loitering or trespassing laws, unless the squatters can establish that they have tenants’ rights or can gain adverse possession due to the property having been completely abandoned by the owner. Other countries have similar laws, although you should seek specific legal advice dependent on where you are. If you suspect you have squatters in your neighborhood contact the police and the home owners, but stay calm and let the authorities deal with the situation.

What the squat can you do?

  1. Identify the signs of squatting – Keep an eye out on your neighbor’s if they are away or abandoned houses in your neighborhood.
  2. Evaluate the Situation – try to determine if those person have a legal right to be there. You can just calmly talk to them.
  3. Speak to your neighbors – see if anyone else in the neighborhood as additional information.
  4. Know the laws in your city and state regarding abandoned property – as mentioned above getting rid of squatters may not be straight forward. Know what legal steps are available to you to remove squatters. Do not take the removal process upon yourself.
  5. How to deal with squatters
    1. Contact the Police
    2. Contact the property owner, if it is not your home
    3. Determine your grounds for action – depending what they did in your home you may have lots to do.
  6. To Reduce your chances for getting squatters
    1. Have a Home Alarm
    2. Have Internal and external Cameras
    3. Have your Neighbors watch your house when you are going to be away for awhile
    4. Let the Police know you will be out of town and who has access to your house

Resources:

 

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