How To Protect Your Home From Being Stolen by Squatters

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Owning a home has been an aspirational part of the American Dream for much of the country’s history. But if you’ve read the headlines lately you’ve probably noticed that some people are gaining ownership by simply living in homes they haven’t paid for — a practice known as squatting.

You may wonder how someone could do that and more importantly, how you can prevent a squatter from taking possession of your property.

Money expert Clark Howard says that state laws are largely ineffective when it comes to combating squatting, but there are two potential solutions you can take as a homeowner:

How To Prevent a Squatter From Taking Your Home

1. Buy a Camera System

“Having cameras on location to make sure nothing crazy is going on there is a really great thing with any vacant home,” Clark says.

Clark says homes that don’t have any eyes on them and have fallen into a state of disrepair are prime real estate for squatters, who are actively searching — even scanning the obituaries — to take possession of empty structures.

Many video doorbells allow you to see what’s happening at and around your front door. You can also install the devices elsewhere on the property.

You may be able to find one on sale on ClarkDeals’ Electronics Page. If you need a walkthrough on the setup, you can read how Clark installed a Ring camera.

Also, our DIY Home Security Guide features several packages with video cameras viewed from an app and more.

2. Contact Your State Representative

Clark says a more systematic way to combat the squatting issue is to reach out to your state representative.

Because no federal law addresses squatting, many people across the country have taken advantage of the common law concept of adverse possession, which allows someone to take possession of land without a traditional title.

To remedy this, Clark says you should reach out to Washington, D.C.


“You need to contact your elected representative and tell them you want any squatter statute passed,” Clark says. “The laws, because they’re silent, basically operate to the benefit of the squatter.”

Here’s how to contact your state rep:

Via Email

Via U.S. Postal Mail

  • You can write to any member of the House at: Post Office Box 11867 Columbia, S.C. 29211-1867. Address the letter to your representative.
  • You can write to any member of the Senate at: United States Senate Washington, DC 20510. Address the letter to your Senator.

Template: Suggested Letter To Elected Official

If you choose to write online, you should know that each elected official may have a different type of form, so you’ll have to follow the specific instructions on the page of the legislator you reach out to. Once you’re ready to fill out the body of the form or are writing a letter to send via postal mail, here’s what you can say:


SUBJECT: Squatting Law

Dear Representative [Insert Last Name]

My name is [Insert Your Name] and I reside at [Insert Your Address] in [Insert Your City and State].

I am writing to ask that you help protect homeownership and the rights of homeowners by creating an anti-squatting statute. State laws are limited when it comes to empowering homeowners to rid their properties of tenants who refuse to leave as well as people who have brazenly moved in for a period of time and staked a claim to the home.


I would appreciate your help in urgently addressing the matter of squatting and ask that you send me a response letting me know if you are able to pass anti-squatting legislation.

Thank you for your consideration of my request.


[Insert Your Name]


What To Do if You Have Squatters Now?

If you’re currently dealing with a squatting situation in a home or apartment that you own, it’s important to note that your course of action will be limited to what the state and local laws permit where you live.

Squatting is a complicated legal issue, so it behooves you to act with caution and practicality.

With that being said, here are some steps you can take, according to expert advice from various official sources around the United States, including the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook, the Pennsylvania Consumer Guide to Tenant-Landlord Rights as well as the Arizona court system website. Again, things may differ where you live.

Go the Direct Route (With Caution)

You may choose to interact with the squatter directly, although because there is a possibility of confrontation, this may not be advisable in all cases. On the other hand, appealing to their sense of reason and fairness may work.

  • Ask that the squatter leave the premises and not remove any property that is not theirs.
  • Offer to rent the place to the squatter as a condition of signing a lease.
  • In some states, like Arizona, you can request that law enforcement remove from your home anyone who is there without your permission, but that won’t work everywhere.

What you don’t want to do is just change the locks and shut off the power. In many states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia, that is illegal and considered a “self-help” eviction performed without the help and governance of the courts.


In some schools of thought, serving an eviction notice signals to the state that the intruder should be treated as a tenant, but to do things the legal way, you almost always have to. Here’s how things should typically go:

  • With the help of an attorney, draft an affidavit claiming that the squatter has no legal right to the home.
  • Get the affidavit notarized.
  • Present the affidavit to the local sheriff’s office and explain the situation to them.

If everything goes as planned, and depending on local law, the sheriff may be able to serve the intruder with an eviction notice, which could take effect immediately or take days or months depending on where you live. Still, many sheriffs may want their orders in writing from a judge and will direct you to go before the court to get judge-signed paperwork.

Even then, the court will typically grant the squatter a certain amount of time to vacate the premises. When law enforcement finally comes to evict the intruder, it will have been a time-consuming process, which is why you want to do everything you can to prevent squatters in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Clark says squatting will continue to be a problem unless people unite to do something about it.

“The laws are behind on this and it’s something that is not a major or controversial piece of legislation,” Clark says. “Because there’s no lobbyist behind fixing it, this is a case where constituents have to rise up and make noise, and then this will be fixed.”