It’s tough to get rid of neighbor squatters: your hands are tied, in a legal sense.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but you do have a number of tools you can employ. First, let’s look at the relationship of squatters to owners and to neighbors.
Owners, Neighbors, and Squatters
Even for the property owner, it’s difficult to evict squatters–but at least they have legal ties to the property. The property owner can start the eviction process and go through the courts to get rid of the squatters. Whether or not the case is decided in favor of the owner is, for the purpose of this article, irrelevant. The point is that owners have legal recourse.
As a neighbor, you have none. You cannot evict a neighbor–law-abiding or not–from their home.
Strength in Numbers
Before you begin, try to seek the support of neighbors. You may think that you are alone in this–that only you care about these squatters–but you may be surprised to find that neighbors feel the same way.
But don’t expect that everyone will want to get as actively involved as you. Some neighbors will be afraid of identifying themselves and wish to remain anonymous. At this initial stage, it’s important to take neighbors at whatever level they choose to be involved. If you bear down, some neighbors will completely shut down. Assure these neighbors that it’s fine to remain anonymous. There will be chances later to convince them to increase their visibility.
1. Work Cooperatively Through the Owner
Absolutely the best course of action is to work through the property owner. If you have even a slim thread of connection to the owner, you need to exploit that connection to its fullest.
In some cases–when the owner is on an extended trip or lives elsewhere–the owner may not even know that their property is occupied by squatters. Often, a couple at retirement age will leave their main “city” home for their second, vacation home. They may be unaware that their property is occupied.
How do you find out a property’s owner? Search for online property records at your county’s tax assessor office.
2. Pressure the Owner
This method again involves working through the owner–but not in a cooperative sense.
Once you have exhausted cooperative methods, it’s time to put mild pressure on the owner but to stay away from overt threats.
The intent is to make it clear to the property owner that you, too, are a problem. The owner will see two problems facing him/her: the squatters and you. If you present a bigger problem to the owner than the squatters, the owner may decide to take the path of least resistance–evicting the squatters.
- “Everyone is Against You” Mention that the neighborhood-as-a-whole (not just you alone) is unhappy with the situation. Mention that actions are already in motion to remedy the problem.
- Police. If you have called the police, mention the calls and specifics of the calls. Imply that the owner may be culpable for any criminal acts committed on the squatting property.
- Shame. Create shame and embarrassment for the property owner. Some property owners could care less if they are publicly shamed for letting a squatter house take root.
3. Raise a Local Storm
Treat your neighborhood squatter problem as you would any other major project in your life. For example, if a group of citizens wanted to build an animal shelter, they would highlight the problem of stray dogs.
- Local Politicos. Instead of calling police, try a different authority: your local city councilman or alderman. These politicians are expected to tend to the fabric of their communities. Make the case that this squatter house affects the whole community, not just you or a couple of neighbors.
- Social Media. Create a Facebook page. Title it something like “The Squatter House at 123 Elm Street, Uvalde, Texas.” Prominently featuring the street address makes the Facebook page more findable on Google.
- Publish Articles. Write an article about your problem and offer it to your local newspaper. Papers are always looking for new content, especially if it has a local bent and is offered free.
- Blogging. Start a blog detailing your efforts. WordPress.org is one example of a free blogging service. Detail all of your efforts at ridding your community of the squatters. This has two advantages: 1.) You keep a permanent record of measures you have taken; 2.) This record is publicly available.
4. Dangerous and Illegal Methods
We cannot advocate any of these methods, a majority of which deal with criminal activities within squatter houses. Some are downright foolish as well as dangerous to your safety. Others are illegal. Following are a few we have heard:
- “Publicly expose the squatters.”
- “Are they trying to quietly run a marijuana grow house? Run a Craigslist ad listing the address and detail all the activities going on over there. Users or other growers will read this and may break up the operation for you because they want a piece of the pie.”
- “Cut off their power and water.”