Group of Californians Create a Business to Deal With the Squatter Crisis

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 05, 2024

The lack of laws prohibiting squatters from infiltrating American homes has led to several big stories this month. From stories of squatters actually removing the property owners from their homes to landlords losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent, it seems as though this situation is at its breaking point.

One group of men in California have decided that they won’t wait for the laws to change. For several thousand dollars, they will remove those pesky squatters for anyone struggling with this problem in the Golden State.

What Is a Squatter?

Trying to understand laws against squatters and squatters’ rights in the United States is frustratingly complicated.

A room after squatters left, leaving behind damaged property

Source: Shutterstock

The first aspect to understand is that squatters are people who have moved into a property that is not their own. These buildings or lands are most often uninhabited or unused, but they are almost always owned by someone else.


Understanding Squatters Rights

Technically, squatting is illegal in the United States. However, there is a law in place called Adverse Possession, which states that squatters have the right to occupy private property for a certain period of time without the owner taking legal action.

Road signs that say “Squatting” and “Protection of Property”

Source: Shutterstock

The timeline of Adverse Possession varies by state. In California, if a person has lived in a home for at least five years, they have the right to remain there, even if they have not paid the homeowner rent. Additionally, homeowners cannot simply call the police to remove squatters; they have to file an eviction notice and wait 30 days to enforce it in the Golden State.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Increased the Number of Squatters in California

During the COVID-19 pandemic, several states, including California, loosened their regulations for renters who were unemployed and unable to pay their rent on time.

Woman wearing a mask and posting a sign that reads, “Sorry we’re closed due to COVID-19”

Source: iStock

At the time, this regulation was seen as a helpful tool for Americans in need. But unfortunately, this leniency has led to an immense increase in squatters throughout the country who still haven’t paid rent several years later.

The Squatter Squad

In response to this frustrating reality, a group of men created the Squatter Squad in 2018. Led by Lando Thomas, the team removes illegal tenants who refuse to leave privately owned properties.

Photographs of the Squatter Squad standing outside and a sign that says “Private Property”

Source: Squattersquad

Thomas and his crew have found several legal loopholes to remove unwanted tenants, such as pretending to be maintenance workers and then making them feel uncomfortable and essentially talking them into leaving the property.

Hiring the Squatter Squad Isn’t Cheap

The Squatter Squad charges $5,000 to $10,000 for its unique service. However, it argues that the price is nothing compared to what homeowners lose when squatters take over their homes.

Screenshot of an X post from the Squatter Squad while trying to remove squatters

Source: @SquatterSquadCA/X

One landlord, Jaskaran Singh, from Bellevue, Washington, explained that he lost $80,000 in unpaid rent when a squatter moved in and refused to leave his property.


Squatters Don’t Just Cost Property Owners Money

Additionally, Thomas says that squatters don’t just cost property owners money in missing rent and damages; they can actually cause significant trouble and, in some cases, be quite dangerous.

Woman looking over her fence scared of what she sees next door

Source: 123RF

He told Newsweek that some homeowners and even neighbors receive threats from the squatters. And in the worst cases, the squatters are committing criminal acts in the home, such as doing or dealing drugs.


Why Can’t the Police Help?

What’s especially frustrating for homeowners is that their local police can do little to nothing to help remove squatters, as each situation needs to be handled by the courts first.

A police officer stands idly against his squad card

Source: Freepik

Thomas explained, “Because squatting seems to be on the rise, the courts are backed up from months to years, police can’t or won’t help, property owners feel helpless and are told taking the squatters to court is the only path to getting their property back.”


Squatters Often Return Directly After Eviction

Even if homeowners are able to evict squatters through a court-mandated eviction, unfortunately, they often come back almost immediately.

An eviction notice taped to a wooden front door

Source: iStock

Because the legislation regarding the illegality of squatting lacks any real punishment, squatters are willing to deal with eviction after eviction. They know they won’t be fined or sent to jail, so they’re willing to go to court every time.


The Squad’s Advice for Keeping Squatters Away

During an interview with Newsweek, Thomas explained that there are ways to deter squatters on your property, even if you aren’t currently using it or are even going on vacation.

A small black security camera in a private home

Source: Freepik

First and foremost, Thomas says that no one should leave their property unattended without security cameras in place. Additionally, it’s crucial to leave a car in the driveway when on vacation and “do anything to make it appear as though someone is in the home at all times.”


The Best Advice for Removing Squatters

However, if these plans fail, Thomas says that aside from hiring his Squad, the best way to remove squatters from one’s property is to never stop bothering them.

A man with a backward baseball cap knocks on a front door

Source: iStock

Thomas explained, “Stand your ground with them. Keep after them on a regular basis as to not [let] them feel any comfort or freedom inside your home or on your property. Remember, it’s your private property and they have trespassed illegally trying to ride our weak and gray area tenant laws that should have nothing to do with trespassers.”


Squatter Laws Need to Be Changed for the Sake of American Homeowners

As Alan Chang, the founder and president of Vested Title & Escrow explained, “The generalization is that landlords are a faceless corporation that is out for profit, but there are thousands of mom-and-pop real estate investors that are getting hit hard and losing their principal income streams due to these more known tactics now.”

An elderly woman holds apartment keys toward the camera

Source: Freepik

For Thomas and his team, the bottom line is simple: Squatters are hurting American homeowners and landlords, and they need to be stopped. While the Squatter Squad will continue lending its services to those in need, states like California need to actually change the laws.