How to deal with squatters in your neighborhood? How to remove them? 

Squatters are a major problem across the world, and it is a situation no landlord wants to be in. Dealing with squatters can be a complicated situation, where you want to get rid of them without violating the law (Yes, even squatters have rights in Canada).

We understand that it is incredibly stressful to know that your property has been illegally occupied or is in adverse possession and that you eagerly want it back. However, you must act patiently and well within the law to evict a squatter, and gain legal title for your property. This will ensure that you don’t land in any legal trouble, further extending your separation from your property.

So, let’s look at this problem in detail – what are squatters, what are squatter’s rights, what is the eviction process that you need to follow as a property owner.

What are Squatters?

Squatters are those who try to live in a property they don’t own or rent. There are two types of squatters when it comes to residential properties – people who trespassed vacant property premises and occupied it without any legal standing and, second, those who were tenants at the property, but continue living either without paying rent or even after being legally evicted.

In both cases, taking legal advice and restrained action is advisable in addition to giving a formal eviction notice. In further sections, we will tell you how to go about evicting squatters from your rental property.

What are Squatters Rights Ontario?

Yes, squatters have rights to the property as well. The Canadian Property Law defines it as Adverse Possession. Before you move on with your case, you must ensure that the squatters have no right to the property in the contest. Adverse Possession states that someone can claim land that is actually owned by some other person. This can happen if the occupant can manage to keep the original owners off the property for a period of 10 years and occupy it themselves. In this case, the court can rule in favor of the occupant. If this is your situation, you must take immediate legal action and try to prove your rightful ownership. Once it is proved, you can move on to remove the squatters on your own.

How to evict squatters?

Removing squatters is a complicated process, especially while ensuring that the property is safe. Thankfully, you can deal with the situation if you follow the below-mentioned steps.

Call the Local Police

If you are dealing with a squatter who is a casual trespasser, then you can call the police and let them handle the situation. Trespassing is illegal and once you file an official police report, the police can take action against them. However, if it is a former tenant turned squatter situation, or if the police see it as a civil matter, then it is time for you to move on to the next step.

Send a Written Notice

Evict notice

In this step, you need to file for eviction and send the squatters an eviction notice. In most cases, squatters leave the property when they realize that a notice has been sent and that you are damn serious about reclaiming your property. Meanwhile, the rules might differ in different regions. In some provinces, you might have to inform the government about your notice or the related Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Make sure that you check all rules and regulations before moving ahead.

File with the court

Even after sending an eviction notice, if the squatter is not willing to vacate the property, adverse possession laws state that you can take the matter to the courts. This is the best way to get your property back safely and legally. This process involves filing an application for the eviction with the LTB, which will review and read your application and decide when the case can begin.

EVICTION NOTICE

How long the court will start your hearing and how long it will take for the case to come to fruition will depend on how much load the board has, but usually, it can takes a number of weeks to a few months. It is advised to hire a real estate lawyer or paralegal for this process as they are aware of all the adverse possession rules and proceedings and have in-depth knowledge regarding the appropriate approach for such cases. This will help you in the long run. 

Ask for a helping hand

Once the court gives the notice in your favour, you must ask the local sheriff to carry out the process of evicting the squatters. The physical clearance of the property must be done in the presence of the sheriff to make the proceedings safer. Although most squatters will vacate the property once the court asks them to, you should still inform the sheriff.

Get rid of possessions left behind legally

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If the squatters leave any of their belongings behind, you must get rid of them in a legal manner. It is a smart choice to take the legal course of action and follow all local ordinances to get rid of the left-behind possessions as the squatter can file a suit against you for getting rid of the left-behind property unlawfully. 

Refrain from doing this – at any cost

We understand that as a landlord, you might be frustrated and irritated that people have illegally taken possession of your property and you are finding it difficult to get rid of them, you must refrain from doing anything that might hurt them or put them in danger. Any such kind of action is considered illegal and you might have to face repercussions for it. Avoid:

  • Locking the property with padlocks to keep squatters away
  • Turning off the utilities
  • Intimidating or threatening them
  • Deliberately making the property uninhabitable

How to prevent your property from squatters?

With some things, prevention is the best solution – so is the case with squatters. It is rather frustrating to have someone taking possession of your property without your will, but the process of getting rid of squatters is equally long and frustrating. However, if you act on time and take the right course of action, you can save yourself from all this hassle. Choose wisely when renting out your property to a tenant. It can be difficult to find out who is the right person, but you can take the help of a property management agency. They have several processes in place that filter and sift the right tenants for the landlords, saving you all the hassle of going through the hassle of finding the right tenant and the legalities of giving your property on rent. 

Frequently asked questions about getting rid of squatters

What are squatters and why they are a problem?

Squatters are people who illegally take possession of your property and would not leave. When it comes to residential properties, there are two types of squatters – people who trespass and start living on your property without having any legal documentation, and former tenants who would not leave or pay rent even after the rental agreement has expired. In either case, someone illegally living on your property is an issue as you would not be able to use it in any way, and if they continue to occupy it for a time period of 10 years, they can contest it in court for legal possession.

Why should I get rid of a squatter as soon as possible?

The longer a squatter continues to live on your property, the more difficult it will be for you to get rid of them. It can also make it difficult for you to ascertain your rights on the property. Evicting those occupying your property might take months and spending a lot of money before you get the possession back. During this time, you will not be able to rent it out and utilize it for any purpose. Squatters might also cause severe damage to your property as well causing more expenses.

How can I get rid of squatters from your property?

In no circumstances, you should do anything that breaks that law. Following the legal process is the best way of getting rid of squatters. You can follow these steps:

  1. Call the police
  2. Send them a notice
  3. File in the court
  4. Ask the sherrif to help with emptying the property
  5. Take the legal course for getting rid of left-behind belongings

What are the things I must refrain from doing?

No matter how difficult it is to see a trespasser occupying your property, you must not do anything that will hurt them. This can land you with legal problems. So, do not intimidate or threaten them in any way, do not shut down the utilities on your property, and do not lock the property with padlocks to keep the squatters away. Hurting them in any way will surely land you in trouble. So, be cautious.

How to avoid squatters?

The best way of avoiding getting into this situation is to choose the right tenants. It can be difficult to find the right person, but you can take the help of property management companies, who have the wherewithal to do background checking of tenants and ensure that you get the right people living on your property. They will also help you with documentation and other legalities involved in giving your property on rent.