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6 Creative Ways To Get Rid Of Squatters In Your Short-Term Rental

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Quick Answer

The methods we suggest are to cut utilities, make the property unlivable, offer cash incentives, hire eviction services, temporarily rent back to them, or pursue legal self-help eviction measures as an absolute last resort. Prevention through robust security and tenant screening is ideal.


Navigating the complex issue of squatters in short-term rentals requires swift, innovative action to avoid significant financial and legal headaches. This guide embarks on a journey to arm property owners with eight creative strategies, moving beyond conventional legal battles to reclaim their properties efficiently. It's a roadmap designed to transform adversity into opportunity, ensuring owners are equipped to handle any squatting scenario with confidence and ingenuity.

Know Your Rights as a Landlord

Before taking any action against squatters, it's absolutely vital to understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a property owner. Landlord-tenant laws vary by location, so do your research.

Squatter vs Trespasser - What's the Difference?

On the surface, a squatter is essentially a trespasser - someone illegally occupying your property without permission. However, the law makes an important distinction:

  • Trespasser: Has no legal rights to the property
  • Squatter: May be able to claim tenancy through continued presence

This means squatters are actually afforded more legal protections than trespassers in some cases.

Proper Eviction Procedures

To remove a squatter legally, you must follow all required eviction protocols precisely. This typically involves:

  1. Serving proper written notice to vacate the premises
  2. Filing an eviction lawsuit if they don't leave
  3. Awaiting a court order before forcible removal

Skipping any steps is illegal and could open you up to criminal charges and civil penalties. Document everything carefully.

Protect Yourself From Legal Trouble

While it's frustrating to have your property occupied illegally, self-help evictions often backfire. Changing locks, removing belongings, or using force can quickly land you in legal hot water.

Play by the rules, as tempting as it might be to take matters into your own hands. The legal remedies, though slower, are your safest path to resolving the situation properly.

The Utilities Trick

One effective way to motivate squatters to leave? Cut off their access to utilities like electricity, gas, and water. When the property becomes uncomfortable to live in, they may decide to move on.

Step 1: Proper Termination

First, you'll need to properly terminate utility services in your name as the owner:

  1. Contact each utility provider
  2. Follow their required procedures
  3. Provide proof of ownership

This avoids any illegal utility theft or tampering on your part.

Step 2: Document Everything

Be meticulous about documenting the entire termination process. Save copies of:

  1. Notices sent to squatters
  2. Confirmation from utility companies
  3. Dates services were disconnected

This creates a paper trail demonstrating you followed all legal protocols.

Potential Risks

While cutting utilities is legal in most areas, some localities prohibit it for eviction purposes. Research your local laws first, as there could be risks like:

  1. Fines for improper termination
  2. Squatters regaining access
  3. Inability to remove them from the property

Proceed cautiously and cover your bases to avoid legal headaches with this strategy.

The Discomfort Campaign

If cutting off utilities doesn't convince squatters to leave, it's time to make the property as uninhabitable and unpleasant as legally possible. This non-confrontational approach uses discomfort and inconvenience as motivators.

Removing Essential Items

One tactic is to remove all non-permanent items that make the rental livable:

  1. Appliances (stove, refrigerator, etc.)
  2. Furniture
  3. Window coverings
  4. Interior doors

Without these amenities, the property becomes rather inhospitable for squatters.

Extreme Environment Adjustments

You can also adjust the environment to intentionally disrupt their living conditions through legal means like:

  1. Installing bright lights that remain on 24/7
  2. Boarding up non-essential rooms
  3. Cranking up the heat or AC to uncomfortable levels

The idea is to make the squatters completely miserable without directly engaging them.

Caution: Avoid Property Damage

While making the rental unlivable, take care to avoid any permanent or destructive alterations that could be considered property damage. Stick to temporary, reversible changes only.

Never take illegal actions like:

  1. Removing belongings
  2. Changing locks to lock them out
  3. Using threats or intimidation tactics

This could quickly escalate into an illegal eviction situation, opening you up to criminal charges and civil penalties. Remain on firm legal ground at all times.

The Cash Incentive: A Sweet Solution

When dealing with stubborn squatters, sometimes monetary motivation is the best way to encourage them to leave willingly. Offering a cash incentive often called a "cash-for-keys" deal, can be an effective carrot to dangle.

How It Works

The process involves negotiating with the squatters to vacate the property by an agreed-upon deadline in exchange for a cash payment. This provides them funds for relocation while incentivizing a peaceful exit.

To start:

  1. Determine a reasonable dollar amount to offer based on estimated eviction costs.
  2. Draft a written cash-for-keys agreement specifying the move-out date and payment terms.
  3. Both parties sign, making it a legally binding contract.

Pros and Cons

On the plus side, cash-for-keys deals are usually faster and cheaper than eviction lawsuits. You avoid lengthy court battles and potentially expensive legal fees.

The downside? You're essentially rewarding the squatters' bad behavior with a payoff. There's also no guarantee they'll actually leave once paid.

Proceed With Caution

If pursuing this route, proceed carefully. Consult a real estate attorney to ensure your agreement complies with local laws and protects your rights. And never hand over cash until the squatters have completely vacated.

While not ideal, sometimes greasing a few palms is the most pragmatic solution for resolving a squatter situation quickly and cost-effectively.

When to Call in the Pros

For cases of extremely stubborn squatters, or situations where you want to avoid any legal risk, hiring professional eviction assistance is the safest route. This ensures the removal process is handled properly according to local laws.

Eviction Services

There are companies that specialize in eviction services for landlords and property owners. Their process typically involves:

Step 1: Proper Notices Served

The eviction service will formally serve all required eviction notices and demands to vacate the premises on the squatters.

Step 2: Court Filings

If the squatters don't leave by the deadline, the company files an official eviction lawsuit in housing court on your behalf.

Step 3: Court-Ordered Removal

Once an eviction order is granted by the court, the service completes the legal removal of the squatters and their belongings from your property.

The start-to-finish process is handled compliantly, minimizing any legal liability on your part as the owner.

Hire an Eviction Attorney

For extra legal protection, you can hire a real estate attorney experienced in evictions. A lawyer ensures:

  • Proper eviction filing and procedures
  • Representation in housing court
  • Enforcement of the eviction order

While more expensive, an attorney provides the highest level of legal counsel and advocacy throughout the process.

Weigh Costs vs. Benefits

The downside of professional eviction services? The costs can add up quickly between filing fees, attorney charges, service fees, and potentially court-awarded penalties. However, the benefits of avoiding legal pitfalls may be worth the investment.

For high-stakes situations where you want to eliminate all risk, bringing in trained professionals is the prudent choice - despite the higher price tag.

The Rent-Back Approach

In some cases, an unconventional strategy of temporarily renting the property back to the squatters can resolve the situation. This approach is based on converting the squatters to legal tenants.

Step 1: Rental Agreement

Start by drafting a rental agreement that includes:

  • Defined rental term (30-90 days)
  • Monthly rent amount
  • Clear move-out requirements after the term ends

Having a signed contract in place establishes you as the landlord and them as tenants with legal occupancy rights during the rental period.

Step 2: Vet Their Ability to Pay

Of course, this strategy hinges on the squatters being able to pay rent. You'll want to properly screen and verify they have sufficient income or funds to cover the full rental term.

Regaining Possession

Once the rental period expires, you regain full legal possession if they violate the agreement by staying past the move-out date. At this point, you can:

  • Provide required notice to vacate
  • Initiate eviction proceedings if needed

The key benefit? You've eliminated their squatter rights through the rental contract terms.

A Calculated Risk

While renting back to squatters may seem risky, it can effectively resolve the situation through legal channels when executed properly. Proceed with caution, dotting all i's and crossing all t's.

Ultimately, you're betting that having a contractual obligation will motivate them to leave voluntarily once the term expires. If not, you've regained the upper hand for eviction.

Self-Help Evictions: Absolute Last Resort

When all other options have been exhausted, some owners consider taking matters into their own hands through "self-help" eviction measures. However, this path should be pursued with extreme caution as the legal risks are severe.

Dangers of DIY Evictions

Self-help evictions refer to actions like:

  • Changing the locks
  • Removing the squatters' belongings
  • Using force or threats to make them leave

In most jurisdictions, these measures are illegal if done improperly and can quickly escalate into criminal matters.

Potential Criminal Charges

Charges you could potentially face include:

  • Illegal eviction
  • Unlawful property removal
  • Assault or menacing
  • Trespassing

Even if the squatters are in the wrong, taking the law into your own hands opens you up to legal penalties.

Costly Civil Lawsuits

The squatters may also be able to sue you civilly if your self-help actions are deemed unlawful. This could leave you facing punitive damages, fines, and court fees on top of criminal repercussions.

Absolute Worst-Case Scenario

Self-help evictions should only be attempted as an absolute, utmost last-ditch effort if you've exhausted every other avenue. Even then, the risks of doing so improperly are extraordinarily high.

Consult an attorney well-versed in landlord-tenant law before ever considering this route. And be prepared to face potentially severe legal consequences if you take any self-help actions incorrectly.

Preventing Squatters: An Ounce of Prevention

While the creative removal tactics covered in this guide are effective, the ideal solution is to prevent squatters from ever gaining occupancy of your property in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to these unwanted guests.

Secure Your Property

First and foremost, ensure your short-term rental has proper security measures in place to deter would-be squatters. This includes:

  • Robust Lock Systems
  • Invest in high-quality lock systems and consider upgrading to smart locks that allow remote locking/unlocking. Change codes between each renter.
  • Security Cameras

Install visible security cameras to monitor the property when vacant. Motion-activated models can alert you of any trespassers.

Lighting and Alarms

Bright exterior lighting and a loud alarm system create additional deterrents against break-ins when the property is empty.

Thorough Renter Screening

Implementing stringent screening criteria for all renters is crucial for weeding out potential squatters before they can take up residence.

Require Refundable Deposits

Collecting a sizable refundable security deposit upfront helps verify the renter's identity and ability to pay. Squatters are unlikely to pay large deposits.

Conduct Background Checks

Run full background checks screening for criminal history, past evictions, and other red flags that could signal a problematic guest.

Check References and Employment

Call all listed references and verify employment to confirm the renter is truthful and has the means to pay the rental rate.

Actively Monitor the Property

Even with preventative measures in place, it's wise to keep close tabs on your rental between bookings. Conduct regular drive-by inspections to ensure no one has illegally gained access.

Immediately investigate any signs of a potential break-in like:

  • Open doors or windows
  • Lights on inside
  • Unfamiliar vehicles parked outside

The sooner you identify squatters, the easier they are to remove through proper legal channels before their occupancy is established.

Consider Hiring a Property Manager

Hiring a professional property management company can add an extra layer of security for owners of multiple rental properties or those who travel frequently.

A diligent property manager helps by:

  • Conducting regular inspections
  • Verifying each renter's identity
  • Monitoring for any unauthorized occupants
  • Initiating prompt removal procedures if squatters are detected

While it requires an investment, a property manager provides boots-on-the-ground oversight to safeguard your investment.

The old saying is true - an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. By implementing robust security protocols and screening procedures, you'll avoid many costly headaches down the road.


Dealing with squatters is never easy, but using creative yet legal tactics can help resolve the situation. From making the property uninhabitable to negotiating cash-for-keys, multiple strategies allow you to motivate squatters to leave without running afoul of landlord-tenant laws. Hiring professional eviction services ensures a lawful removal if they refuse to budge. Above all, preventative screening and security measures should be prioritized to stop squatters before they become an issue. With some savvy advice from this guide, you can protect your investment from unauthorized occupants.


What Rights Do Squatters Have in Short-Term Rentals?

Squatters in short-term rentals may be able to establish tenant rights if they occupy the property for a certain number of consecutive days, which varies by state law. In some states, it's as little as 10-30 days before squatters gain legal protections, and the owner must go through formal eviction proceedings to remove them.

How Can I Prevent Squatters in My Vacation Rental?

Screen all potential guests thoroughly, require a security deposit, have them sign a rental agreement, keep the property monitored, and act quickly if you suspect squatters. Don't allow rentals over 30 days, and respond promptly to any neighbor complaints about your rental.

What Steps Do I Take if Squatters Occupy My Short-Term Rental?

First, refer to your state's laws on squatters' rights and the timeline for establishing tenancy. You may need to provide written notice to vacate and then file an eviction lawsuit if they don't leave by the deadline. Document everything, but do not attempt self-eviction.

Do I Need Special Short-Term Rental Insurance for Squatter Situations?

Yes, it's highly recommended to have vacation rental insurance that provides coverage for squatters, including reimbursement for lost rental income, legal fees, eviction costs, and damages caused by squatters. Regular homeowners insurance may not cover these situations.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.