What is a Squatter?

As a landlord, it’s fulfilling to maintain your properties and offer great living spaces to tenants. However, there can be challenges when people try to undermine your ownership rights. Squatting is a concern, especially in California, where specific laws require landlords to understand and follow regulations to deal with squatters.

What is a Squatter?

What is Squatting?

Squatting means living in a property without permission from the owner. It can happen in various types of places, like homes or businesses. Squatters are people who do this, even though it’s usually illegal. In California, there are laws to help property owners deal with squatting. It’s important to know that squatters can’t become legal owners of a property just by living there.

Property owners dealing with squatting usually have to follow legal steps to get their property back. This includes sending eviction notices, starting eviction proceedings, and getting legal help if needed. Sometimes, law enforcement might need to step in to remove squatters.

What is Adverse Possession?

Hostile Possession

Hostile possession means using a property without the owner’s permission. It doesn’t necessarily involve aggression but challenges the owner’s legal claim.

Actual Possession

Actual possession is when someone physically controls and occupies a property. This includes maintenance, improvements, and excluding others. Courts consider various factors to determine this.

Continuous Possession

Continuous possession is uninterrupted control of a property for a specific duration. In California, it’s usually five years, and the occupant must be consistently present and in control.

Exclusive Possession

Exclusive possession means having sole control and use of a property, excluding the legal owner.

Open & Notorious

Open and notorious possession is when you occupy a property in a way that’s visible to others, making it clear to the owner that you’re there.

They Pay Property Taxes

In California, squatters must pay property taxes for five years and provide proof to avoid legal eviction. This includes state, county, and municipal taxes. Without proof, they can be evicted.

How to remove a squatter in California

When dealing with squatters in California, it’s important to be proactive because the state’s laws usually support property owners or landlords who haven’t abandoned or neglected their property.

One option is to try negotiating with the squatters and offer them money to leave the property voluntarily. While this may not always work, it can save time and money compared to legal battles. Open communication and constructive dialogue can sometimes lead to a mutually agreeable solution.

Another approach is to offer the squatters a rental agreement or written permission to be on the property. This weakens their claim of adverse possession because it acknowledges a legal relationship between you as the owner and the squatters. However, be aware that this can make the eviction process more complicated, as they gain certain legal protections as tenants.

If all else fails, you can proceed with filing an eviction notice. This involves serving the squatters with the appropriate notice based on your specific situation:

  • If they haven’t paid rent, use a 3-Day Notice to Pay.
  • If there’s no lease or the lease has ended, use a 30-Day Notice to Quit for tenancies under a year or a 60-Day Notice to Quit for longer tenancies.
  • If they’re involved in illegal activities, use a 3-Day Notice to Quit.

Make sure to follow the correct legal procedures and timelines when filing an eviction notice and pursuing an unlawful detainer lawsuit.