You return home after a two-month-long vacation only to find strangers squatting in your house. The problem is that these people have lived in your home since the time you left and even receive mail there. To regain possession of your property, you have few options, each usually taking time to process. Now the battle begins to get the squatters out of your home.

Depending on the situation, you might be able to talk to the squatters and, together, come up with an amicable solution for them to leave. During that conversation, you will have a better idea as to their demeanor and whether they will accommodate your request or fight to stay. If the squatters make it clear that they plan to live in your house until forced out, you need to contact your local law enforcement agency and an attorney who specializes in squatting cases.

Squatters’ Rights

Keep in mind that squatter laws vary from one state and city to another. For instance, some places recognize squatters as “lawful residents.” As the homeowner, that seems completely unfair, but it is the law. If you have squatters, police presence may be enough to encourage them to leave. However, most people have to hire an attorney to assist with the legal eviction process. Unfortunately, having someone evicted takes weeks, if not months.

Although you might feel tempted to break into your home and physically force the squatters out, shut off all utilities, change the locks, or take some other action, be careful. Because of squatters’ rights, you could end up on the wrong side of the law. Although frustrating, if the squatters refuse to move out of your house, your only recourse is to take the legal route.

Taking Appropriate Action

Immediately after learning the squatters plan to stay in your home, start the legal eviction process. Within several weeks or months, the court will hand down an order for them to vacate. To enforce the court’s order, a deputy will serve an eviction notice to the squatters advising they have x-number of days to move. If they refuse, the police will arrest and charge them with a criminal offense.

There are few things more aggravating and frightening than coming home to find complete strangers taking up residence in your home. Sadly, this happens far more often than most people realize. So how can you protect yourself and your home? If you plan to take an extended vacation or go out of state for personal or business reasons longer than a few weeks, hire someone to house sit.

If you end up with squatters, take the appropriate action by contacting law enforcement and a qualified attorney; this ensures you do everything according to law, which keeps you out of trouble and remedies the problem. If the squatters damage your house or possessions, again, this is a civil matter. However, as homeless individuals, there is little chance of recovering any money. In that case, you would need to file a homeowner’s insurance claim.