While the term “squatter” may make you think of crumbling buildings and homelessness, it can be a very real problem for well-kept and well-managed communities. Since dealing with squatters can be difficult, knowing the telltale signs and how to properly handle the situation is key. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate these tricky waters:
- Communicate with residents/owners. By maintaining clear lines of communication with members of your community, you can establish which units are owner occupied, leased, and if someone is relocating. Having a general idea of who should be around is helpful in identifying those who don’t belong and may be squatters.
- Track titleholders. Knowing who owns what (i.e. the bank or individuals) in your community gives the HOA a pretty good idea if a home should be occupied or not. In most cases, the owner won’t be aware of the squatters and by keeping an eye out, you’re not only doing the HOA a service, you’re helping owners out as well.
- Look for easy targets. Since squatters look for homes that are obviously unoccupied, you should too. Looking for homes that have newspapers/mail piling up and look generally neglected will help you identify targets before squatters do.
- Know the limits of the HOA’s authority. Even if you know someone is squatting, the HOA most likely doesn’t have any rights to evict. Since eviction isn’t always an option, you’ll first want to determine if the person(s) is a true squatter or someone who doesn’t have a proper lease on file. If it’s the latter, work with them/the homeowner to obtain and finalize all necessary paperwork. If it’s a true squatter, don’t take things into your own hands. All you can and should do is advise the owner of the situation in writing and notify the police. You never know what you’ll find on the other side of the door, and it isn’t worth risking the safety of anyone on your board.
While there isn’t a lot an HOA can do about squatters, having an HOA community management company, like Spectrum, who will help you work with law enforcement, titleholders, and the judicial system can help prevent squatters from plaguing your community in the long run. If you’re not happy with or your community doesn’t already have a property management company, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love the opportunity to work with you and help your community with any issue, including squatters!