Why It’s Never “OK” To Have Squatters in Your Neighborhood

After squatters descend on your property or neighborhood, there may be the temptation to give into what appears to be an unmanageable problem.  Poll neighbors of squatter-occupied properties and you may hear comments such as “I don’t like it, but as long as they’re quiet…”  or “Are they hurting anyone?” or “It’s better than an empty house.”

In a comment posted on the Douglasville Patch, a reader says:

What threat does a squatter have as long as they are not criminals? Many squatters are previous home owners. I do not understand why squatting is so bad if the squatters are respectful to their neighbors and and take care of the property.

The last comment has a vague ring of truth to it.  Empty properties are dead properties.  As soon as a property is unoccupied, it will slowly deteriorate.  Sometimes, it’s good to have a warm body–any warm body–inside to keep the lights on and stop drips from turning into floods.

But that’s only in the case of occupants who have some sense of responsibility to the property–renters or property managers.  And that brings us to our first point.

If you need convincing that it’s never OK to have squatters in your neighborhood, here are some reasons:

  1. Squatters Do Not Maintain the Property.  Squatters will maintain the property for only as long as it suits them.  Even then, their maintenance may count for little or nothing.  In the worst cases, transients and homeless occupy a property and perform no maintenance.  In the best case, squatters occupy a house with the intent of securing ownership by adverse possession.  They may maintain the property with some care, since a demonstration of maintenance is needed to eventually gain ownership of the property.
  2. Squatter-Occupied Properties Bring Down Your Property Value.  If a property in your neighborhood is occupied by squatters, it affects you.  Even if the property isn’t in a shambles, the knowledge that a property is occupied by squatters is enough to drive off future homebuyers in your neighborhood.
  3. Squatters Bring the Criminal Element.  Not all squatters are hardened criminals.  But the fact that a person tries to occupy a house illegally does make them a criminal.  If that person later gained ownership of the house, would you want them in your neighborhood?
  4. Squatters Often Steal Public Utilities or Devise Unsafe Workarounds.  Because many squatters cannot get utilities (power, water, cable, internet, etc.) hooked up legitimately, they resort to doing so illegally.  They will hook directly into power lines, re-route cable or internet, break locks to turn gas back on.  Worse than this, they may bring in kerosene space heaters, candles, or they may bring in gas-powered generators for power.

Squatters do nothing to enhance your neighborhood or property:  remove them as soon as possible.