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Sell My House with Squatters

Considering selling a house house with squatters? Learn about the legalities, challenges and options available to homeowners facing this situation.

Discovering that your rental property or vacant home has been illegally occupied can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating situation for any homeowner. Squatters are people who move into abandoned properties or units without the owner’s permission and establish occupancy against the owner’s will. Even worse, they often don’t pay rent and can be difficult to evict due to tenant protections laws.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament as you attempt to sell your occupied house, this guide will provide key information and smart strategies to deal with the challenging process of removing squatters and selling the property.

Who is a Squatter?

It’s important to understand what legally constitutes a squatter. A squatter is someone who occupies an uninhabited or abandoned property or unit without the owner’s consent. This means they don’t have a lease or rental agreement and have no legal right to live there.

In many states, if a person establishes residency in a property without the owner’s permission and remains for a statutory period of time, they can make a legal claim to adverse possession. Typically, the time period is 7 years, but it varies based on location.

Typical squatter behavior includes changing the locks, not paying utilities, avoiding communication with the landlord, and doing repairs or upgrades to make themselves at home. As frustrating as this can be, it’s illegal for property owners to resort to “self-help” evictions through shutting off utilities, threats of violence, or unlawful removal of a squatter’s belongings.

Squatters Have Rights Too

Even though squatters don’t have a valid legal right to occupy residence, they still have basic rights and eviction processes must be followed. If handled improperly by the owner, it’s possible for squatters to claim retaliation or harassment and even sue the property owner.

That’s why it’s critical to proceed carefully by following formal eviction protocols and working with law enforcement and the court system. Self-help tactics often result in fines, lawsuits, and even criminal charges against the property owner. The best way forward is staying calm and using the law to your advantage.

First Steps When Facing Squatters

Upon discovering squatters, document everything. Take photos and video, record written observations, and thoroughly inspect the property. Try to identify the squatters, determine how long they’ve likely been there, check for property damage or theft, and spot health/safety issues like chemicals, drugs, weapons, etc. Having a complete record will help build your case and expedite law enforcement and court proceedings.

Contact local police immediately and file an official report for breaking and entering as well as trespassing. Give them documentation and walk them around the property. The report creates a paper trail and usually the presence of police will pressure many squatters to vacate immediately without further action.

You’ll also need to provide the squatters with formal written notice explaining they don’t have legal rights to be there and must vacate the residence within a defined period of time. Requirements vary but are often 30 days. Post the notice firmly on the front door and send a copy by certified mail. Make sure you keep diligent records.

Eviction Procedures

If the squatters don’t leave voluntarily after proper written notice has expired, then you must initiate a formal unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. This involves filing the proper paperwork and forms with your local county court and paying fees, which vary by state. Expect the process to take at least a few months to move through the court system.

You’ll need to collect and provide proof of ownership of the property, documentation showing the length of time since initial notice was given, confirmation they have no lease or permission to be there, and evidence like photos and police reports. Representing yourself in court without an attorney is challenging but doable. Expect the judge to set a trial date for several weeks out.

If the judge ultimately rules in your favor, the court will then issue a writ of possession giving the squatters only a few days to vacate before the sheriff or marshal comes to physically remove them. Local police may assist to keep the peace if needed. Any belongings left behind by evicted squatters can be disposed of immediately.

Change All Locks Immediately

As soon as the property is fully vacated, whether voluntarily or by formal eviction, make changing locks your top priority. This ensures the squatters can’t return and occupy the home again later. Burglary charges can be filed against squatters who return and enter unlawfully. New locks provide critical peace of mind during cleaning, repairs, and real estate listing/showings.

Address Safety & Health Concerns

Sadly, it’s quite common for squatters to leave behind extensive filth, damage, garbage, and health hazards that must be remedied before selling. Be prepared to invest time and money in cleanup and repairs. Document all issues thoroughly with photos/video for insurance claims and to show real estate agents and potential buyers.

Watch for problems like smashed walls and fixtures, missing appliances/hardware, graffiti, food waste clogging plumbing, flea/pest infestations, arduous odors requiring ozone machines, hypodermic needles requiring biohazard removal, and more. Be thorough to spot and handle all problems efficiently.

Hire Professionals If Needed

Given the complexities and risks of removing squatters, don’t hesitate to consult and retain legal counsel and eviction services if you feel overwhelmed navigating the process effectively on your own. The minimal expense to hire representation and support is well worth it long term.

Likewise, if the property requires extensive repairs and cleanup beyond your capabilities, hire reputable contractors to tackle the work efficiently so you can get the house back on the market without wasting time. Be sure to vet companies thoroughly and get references to ensure reliable service.

List Property ASAP

To maximize sale potential, it’s wise to get your vacant property listed, shown, and under contract as soon as possible after regaining possession and making repairs. Extended vacancies invite more troublesome activities. Getting a buyer lined up quickly reduces headaches down the road.

Be transparent in disclosures about the previous squatter situation and resolutions performed to ease buyer concerns. Market the house competitively but fairly by comparing recent selling prices for similar nearby homes so it moves promptly. Expect to receive lower offers accounting for the home’s history, but don’t surrender too much equity due to desperation for a fast sale.

Future Prevention Tips

To avoid repeating a squatter nightmare, keep homes well-maintained with routine inspections if vacant for extended periods between tenants or while preparing for sale. Install security alarms and cameras. Board up windows/doors initially if easily accessible by intruders. Perform frequent drive-by and drop in unannounced periodically.

Ask neighbors to help keep watch and let you know if any suspicious activity arises. Place no trespassing signs clearly around the property. Keep the yard maintained regularly by a service to give the home a lived-in look that deters squatters. Take preventative steps seriously to protect real estate investments.

Selling an occupied house plagued by unwelcome squatters ranks among real estate owners’ worst nightmares. But by understanding squatters’ rights, methodically following formal eviction protocols, securing your property, repairing all damage, and marketing the home competitively, the house can sell relatively smoothly, and owners can put the frustrating ordeal behind them. Stay vigilant in the future to avoid repeat scenarios. With persistence and patience, regaining control of illegally occupied properties is very achievable.

Know the Law Before Acting

Laws pertaining to squatter’s rights and the eviction process vary significantly across different states, counties, and municipalities. What may be acceptable in one region can result in civil or even criminal liability in another jurisdiction. Therefore, the very first step when discovering squatters is to research regulations in your specific area.

Consult local statutes directly, contact an attorney familiar with real estate laws in that state or county, or reach out to your city’s housing authority for guidance. Understand laws addressing adverse possession, the required steps and waiting periods around written tenant notices, when it becomes legally acceptable to deactivate utilities or disposal of personal property left behind after evictions, and use of force restrictions.

Equipping yourself with knowledge of applicable laws prepares you to take lawful actions that don’t inadvertently make your situation worse. It also ensures you follow proper protocols around documentation should you end up in court or need law enforcement assistance. Knowing relevant regulations well can expedite remedies and the sometimes lengthy process of reclaiming your property.

Partner with a Reputable Realtor

Navigating any real estate transaction comes with challenges, but the sales complexities rise significantly when a property has been occupied illegally. That’s why it’s critical to select a listing agent with specialized experience around previously inhabited houses. Identify an agent well-versed in disclosures, pricing considerations, security precautions during showings, marketing homes with past defects, and easing buyer concerns.

An agent who has successfully guided other clients through similar squatter ordeals can prove invaluable. They bring wisdom around rehabilitation options to make the home most marketable after vacant. They can provide contractor referrals for cleaning, repairs, and certifications like mold assessments. And they understand the priorities, motivations and risk tolerance of buyers interested despite the home’s unique history.

A seasoned agent guides you through pricing, representations, and negotiations in ways that ease frustrations while maximizing profits. Partnering with one can make all the difference toward a smooth sales process.

We Can Buy Your House

If you want to avoid the hassles of repairs, showings, and qualifying buyers after reclaiming your property, consider contacting a local “We Buy Any House” company that purchases homes as-is for fair cash offers. These investors specialize in buying houses fast even in tough situations like squatter occupations. This is where we at We Buy Any House As Is come into play.

For your house, we can provide a no-obligation quote within 24 hours, close quickly in as little as three days, and take over all ownership burdens. We buy houses for cash Rochester as they are, so you won’t have to sink money into repairs and clean up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, cash property buyers ease the way toward your next chapter without the many headaches of traditional sales.

We buy houses for cash in New York. This ensures that you will not have to go through any frustration when selling the house. We make selling inherited, damaged, or recently vacated homes much simpler, especially when current owners are short on time and energy to list through normal channels after reclaiming their real estate assets from illegal occupants. If you are seeking an expert for buying house in New York, feel free to contact us today!

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