When it comes to property rights and legal matters, the issue of removing squatters has become the biggest concern for property owners. In the United States, an estimated 1 million squatters live in vacant properties. In such situations, property owners want the answer to whether or not the police have the authority to remove squatters and turn to Google with the question: “Can police remove squatters?” In this article, we will discuss the legal process surrounding squatter removal and clarify for property owners. You will also understand your property rights and the proper legal procedures when dealing with squatters.
What Is The Legal Definition Of A Squatter?
According to the Law District – A squatter is an individual who takes over vacant or abandoned properties without the owner’s consent. They do not have legal ownership or a lease agreement with the property owner. This situation often arises due to abandoned buildings, foreclosed homes, or commercial spaces left unattended for an extended period.
What Rights Do Squatters Have?
Before entering into the question of whether the police can remove squatters, it’s important to understand the legal rights and protections squatters have in certain conditions.
Adverse Possession: In Oklahoma, if the squatter occupies the property openly and continuously for 15 years, paying property taxes and meeting all requirements, they can claim property ownership through adverse possession. The time frame can vary depending on the state. In order to claim legal title under Oklahoma adverse possession, the owner has 2 years to sort out the adverse occupation. Thus, landlords should monitor their properties regularly to avoid big losses.
Tenant Rights: Squatters can sometimes claim to be tenants if they have resided in a property for an extended period. In this case, they can have certain tenant rights that protect them from immediate eviction by the police or property owners.
Can Police Remove Squatters From Your Property?
Yes, police can remove squatters from your property if the property owner follows the legal eviction process properly. Generally, police officers cannot remove squatters directly based on the property owner’s request. This is due to the civil nature of property disputes, usually resolved through civil court proceedings.
The police’s role is to enforce the court’s orders and ensure that the eviction occurs peacefully. They usually don’t intervene unless there is evidence of criminal activities such as trespassing, breaking, and entering. For instance, if squatters are engaged in drug trafficking or property damage, the police can take action.
In most cases, the property owner must first file a complaint with the police if the situation escalates or the squatters refuse to leave, and then the police will take steps to remove the stubborn squatters. This process involves obtaining a court order or warrant, and in some cases, the squatters are given a notice to vacate before they are removed, as required by state and local laws. This ensures that due process is followed and protects both property rights and the rights of individuals. It is important to consider that squatters’ rights and procedures for removing them can vary depending on the state laws.
When Can Police Physically Remove Squatters?
As a property owner, you want the ability to take quick action to remove illegal occupants from your property. You prefer avoiding lengthy court eviction procedures with law enforcement, but police can physically remove squatters from a property without a court order only under certain conditions:
Recently Vacated Properties: If squatters move into a property very recently after it was vacated, police can remove them as criminal trespassers without allowing them to gain squatter’s rights. The time frame varies but is often 48-72 hours after vacancy.
Owner Consent: If the property owner provides documentation that they did not consent to the squatter being there, such as a No Trespassing order, police can be authorized to remove the squatter as a trespasser.
Abandoned Properties: For abandoned properties that pose health or safety risks, the police have the authority to remove squatters under public nuisance laws without an eviction process.
Rental Properties: If squatters move into a rental unit still under a valid lease agreement with another tenant, police can remove them as criminal trespassers since the leaseholder still maintains exclusive rights to occupancy.
Dangerous Conduct: Police officers can immediately remove squatters engaged in illegal or dangerous activities such as drug dealing, gang activity, or violence without awaiting formal eviction.
Why Might Police Decline To Remove Squatters?
There are some key reasons why police may not be able or willing to forcibly remove squatters right away:
Established Occupancy: If squatters have established residency by living at the property for an extended period, police cannot remove them until the owner completes a formal civil eviction process granting a court order for removal.
No Proof of Trespassing: If the property manager or owner cannot provide police with proper documentation like a No Trespassing order, lease agreement, or proof of recent vacancy, the police have no authority to treat the squatters as criminal trespassers.
Risk of Violence: Police can decline to remove squatters if there are concerns that could incite violence or cause harm to officers or the squatters themselves. They may advise seeking a civil eviction instead.
Health Risks: In some cases where the property has become extremely unsanitary, police may decline to remove squatters due to health hazards and instead direct the owner to go through a civil process.
COVID Restrictions: During the COVID-19 pandemic, some jurisdictions placed limits on law enforcement physically removing people from residences due to risks of virus transmission.
How to Not Handle Squatters in Your Rental Property?
Rental property occupied by squatters is really annoying for every property owner. This hampers their business and also raises legal and ethical concerns. Property owners are not allowed to take the civil matter on by themselves. This is strictly prohibited by law. If the law is violated, it can lead to legal complications. Instead, taking lawful procedures protects rights and minimizes liability when evicting unauthorized occupants. Here are some things to avoid when dealing with squatters:
Self-eviction: Do not try to remove the squatters yourself without a proper eviction process. This can be dangerous, and you could be charged with trespassing or assault.
Harassment: Do not threaten or engage in harassment to scare off squatters. This can lead to legal trouble.
Self-help eviction: Do not change the locks on the property or shut off the utilities in hopes of forcing squatters out. This is considered a self-help eviction and is illegal in most jurisdictions.
Inducement: Do not offer the squatters money or other incentives to leave. This could be seen as an acknowledgment of their tenancy rights.
False claims: Do not call the police and falsely claim squatters are trespassers or burglars to get quicker enforcement help removing them.
Do not dismiss the costs, risks, and complications of removing unauthorized occupants. Professional legal guidance is a must.
Also, get aware of what constitutes an illegal eviction.
How to Legally Evict Squatters On A Rental Property?
Handling squatters requires a strategic approach to avoid legal complications and property damage. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding squatters rights, as they vary widely. The eviction process is generally time-consuming and costly, and it’s the only way to get rid of squatters. In Oklahoma, squatters can have legal title to a property after living on it for 15 years. So, it is important to take action quickly after discovering squatters on your property.
Here is the legal process, you can legally evict squatters from your rental property:
Document the Situation: Property owners must first document the presence of squatters, including photographs, dates, and any interactions. This documentation can serve as crucial evidence when dealing with law enforcement and the legal system.
Serve an Eviction Notice: Before filing an eviction lawsuit, property owners are generally required to serve an official eviction notice to the squatters. This notice outlines the legal reasons for eviction and informs the squatters that they must vacate the premises within a specified timeframe. This period varies by jurisdiction but usually ranges from 3 to 30 days.
File an Eviction Lawsuit: If squatters refuse to leave after receiving the eviction notice, property owners can file an eviction lawsuit in court. This is a civil lawsuit, so you will not need to hire a criminal lawyer to regain possession of the property. Also, learn what happens if the landlord loses an eviction case.
Attend a Court Hearing: After you have filed an eviction lawsuit, you need to obtain a court order for eviction. This involves presenting the evidence of trespassing and the eviction notice served to the squatters. If the judge rules in your favor, you will be granted an eviction order.
Enforce by Law Enforcement: With a court order in hand, property owners can involve the police to remove squatters from their property. Law enforcement officers will enforce the court order, with lawful eviction, ensuring the property is returned to the actual owner.
How Can Landlords Prevent Squatters?
Prevention is always better than cure. Preventing squatters from entering your property involves taking proactive measures to secure your premises. Here are some effective ways to prevent squatters from occupying your property:
Secure All Entry Points: Make sure all doors, windows, gates, and other entrances are secured with strong locks to make it difficult for intruders to break in.
Regular Inspections: If the property is vacant, check on the property frequently to look for signs of unauthorized entry. This action can prevent squatters from settling in.
Post No Trespassing Signs: Post no trespassing signs to establish restricted access. This communicates that the property is actively monitored.
Property Maintenance: Property under non-maintenance is more likely to attract squatters, so perform regular maintenance. This gives the appearance that the property is occupied or actively monitored.
Install Security Systems: Invest in security systems like cameras and alarms to prevent potential squatters. This acts as a security concern for squatters to enter into the property.
Neighborhood Watch: Engage with your neighbors and local community to deter squatters and other criminal activities. If they are informed about the vacant property, you can get information about any suspicious activities in your property.
Dealing with squatters is a challenging and stressful experience for property owners. While police involvement is limited without proper legal documentation and court orders, going through the right legal process helps reclaim your property’s ownership and restore peace of mind. However, hiring property management companies like OKC Home Realty Services can be a valuable way to reduce the stress of dealing with tenant-related issues, including tenant screening, rent collection, and eviction proceedings. For more information, contact us today!
FAQs on Can Police Remove Squatters
Can Police Remove Squatters Without a Court Order?
While police can act based on an eviction notice, in certain situations, a court order might be required for enforcement, depending on local laws.
What If Squatters Resist Eviction?
Resisting eviction is a serious matter. In such cases, law enforcement might needed to involve specialized units trained in handling situations.
Can Squatters Sue Property Owners?
Squatters can attempt to file legal claims, but their success depends on the specific circumstances and local laws.
Do Squatters Gain Ownership Over Time?
Yes, under the principle of adverse possession, squatters can potentially gain legal ownership of a property if specific legal conditions are met.
What Are the Rights of Property Owners?
Property owners have the right to protect their property from unauthorized occupation. They can pursue legal avenues, including eviction, to remove squatters.