Thursday, July 29, 2010

Evicting Squatters - Knowing Your Rights

It's surprising when it happens. An absent property owner may be completely unaware that someone is living on his property. When a person lives on the property without having permission by the property owner, it's known as "squatting." In some cases, squatters have been known to live in unoccupied houses and buildings for years before being discovered by the owner. In doing so, they establish a form of ownership over the property. While the true property owner can kick the person out, evicting squatters requires him to go through a legal process. In this article, we'll explore squatters, trespassers and the art of evicting them.

Difference Between Squatting And Trespassing

First, it's important to understand that squatting and trespassing aren't necessarily the same. While trespassing is a criminal offense, squatting is technically a civil matter. By definition, squatting may not actually be illegal in your jurisdiction. Plus, removing a squatter requires the property owner to claim possession and prove ownership. That being said, if there are signs of a forced entry (broken windows, locks, etc.), then the squatter is trespassing and the police have the right to remove that person.

When The Law Works Against You

Surprisingly (to the chagrin of thousands of property owners), evicting squatters can take months. In cases where a squatter has lived on a property for years, it can be nearly impossible to evict them. The law requires the property owner to show proof of ownership. While that may seem a simple matter at first, the fact that years have passed without the owner of a home or building realizing the presence of a squatter can make his case less compelling. If a squatter can demonstrate restricted access (for example, locks on the main entry that only the squatter can open), he may be able to prove legal ownership.

The Art Of Evicting Trespassers And Squatters

First, if you notice squatters or trespassers are living on your property, it's recommended that you hire a professional service to evict them. Approaching and dealing with them personally could expose you to risk. Plus, property owners may not realize that it's possible to infringe upon the squatters' legal rights by barging in (despite having true ownership).

Next, file a claim of repossession of your property through the County Court or the High Court. You should have the guidance of a solicitor to ensure you follow the correct procedure. Once your ownership of the property has been proven, the Court can enforce its order by having the squatters removed.

Getting Your Property Back

Finding strangers inhabiting your property without your permission can be an unpleasant surprise. To begin the process of evicting squatters and trespassers, hire a professional eviction service. Avoid confronting the squatters yourself. Prepare the necessary documentation to prove your ownership of the title. Before long, you'll have your property safely back in your possession.

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