How to Spot Squatters

If you've ever rented out your property as a vacation rental, you may have come across the phenomenon of squatters. These are people who book a rental property and then refuse to leave when their stay is up, often causing damage to the property in the process. This can be much more complicated than simply protecting your rental from a party!

While squatting may seem like a victimless crime, it can actually be quite costly and stressful for the property owner. This blog post will discuss what Airbnb squatters rights are, how to prevent them, and what to do if they're already on your property.

Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar for short-term rental hosts, allowing you to seamlessly list on all major channels. Start your free trial today! 

What are Short-Term Rental Squatters?

Most people are familiar with the term squatting when it comes to tenants and rental properties, but many hosts are unaware of its applicability to short-term rentals. The idea of vacation rentals, in general, is to have a steady flow of transient guests, which is definitely contrary to a squatter. A squatter is someone who:

  • Occupies or settles into a property they have no legal claim to

  • Willingly and intentionally overstays past their rental agreement

  • And/or someone who stays on vacant or unoccupied land or property without consent

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of reports of short-term rental squatters. These are people who take advantage of the short-term rental platform to essentially live rent-free on someone else’s property and abuse squatters rights.

There are a few ways that squatters can find and book your property. They may search for listings that allow last-minute bookings or have lax cancellation policies.

They may also look for properties that are unoccupied for long periods of time. Once they’ve found a suitable listing, they will typically book it for an extended time – sometimes months in advance. Some squatters have even been known to change the locks on the property or disconnect the utilities in an attempt to assert ownership.

How to Spot Squatters Before they Book

Incomplete guest profile

One of the biggest red flags is a questionable guest profile. If a guest has missing or fake profile pictures, missing fields in their bio, or bad reviews from another host, they may be a squatter.

Another red flag is if a profile was created just before they made the booking. This could be a sign that they are trying to hide their identity.

They are bad communicators

If a potential guest is hesitant to give you essential information that you need for screening, it could be a sign that they are trying to hide something. Another red flag is if they are bad at responding to your messages or if they refuse to sign a vacation rental contract.

As a host and business owner, it is best to listen to your instincts. If the guest said anything questionable or is exceptionally bad at answering your messages, it is better safe than sorry to move on from that renter. 

Be conscious of approving 30+ day stays

If you have a rental property, it's important to know the difference between tenants and short-term guests. In most states, a guest becomes a tenant if they stay for 30 days or longer. This means that the state's landlord-tenant laws apply, and you will have to follow eviction protocol if they refuse to leave.

Renting our short-term rental as a long-term stay can be a great way to provide stable income for your business. However, it is important that you feel certain about the guest before approving such a stay.

How to Prevent Squatters

How to Prevent Squatters Upon Booking

Require a government-issued ID

This is the most foolproof way to prevent squatters, as you will be able to confirm the identity of your guests before they even step foot in your rental. A government-issued ID will also allow you to run a background check if you feel like you need extra peace of mind.

 If your listing is on Airbnb, they do a good job screening guests before they are allowed to rent on the platform. However, it doesn't hurt to have extra safety practices in place to protect your business. 

Check reviews from other hosts

When you are looking at a potential guest's profile whom you feel unsure about, check their reviews from other hosts. If they have all 5-star reviews and glowing comments, that's a good sign! However, if you see any red flags or negative comments, it might be best to steer clear.

Require a security deposit

Asking for a security deposit is a great way to protect your rental property from any damages that might occur during a guest's stay. Of course, if everything goes well and there are no problems, you can return the deposit to them when they check out.

But if there are any issues, you will have some financial protection. Plus, squatters tend to look for properties where they can pay as little as possible. A security deposit alone can be a great deterrent. 

Invest squatter insurance

It is crucial to protect your investment by getting squatter insurance. This type of coverage can help you recoup any lost business income if a squatter does take up residence in your rental property. Some short-term rental insurance plans offer a custom-written policy specifically for this purpose, so be sure to look for that when browsing insurance plans

Have guests sign a vacation rental contract

Many hosts require their guests to sign a vacation rental contract to stay at the property. This contract will include information such as the check-in and check-out dates and times and any house rules that you have in place. In addition, having a signed contract from your guest will give you more power if you need to go through the eviction process. 

How to Prevent Squatters

What to Do If You Have Squatters in Your Property

Familiarize Yourself with the Squatters’ Rights in Your Area

While it might sound strange, a short-term rental squatter may have certain tenant rights depending on your location. Unfortunately, if a host doesn't evict them before "x amount of days" (depending on the local laws), the squatter may be able to continue living on the property. 

The specifics of these laws vary from area to area, so short-term rental hosts need to be aware of their local squatters' rights.

If you have squatters on your property, the first step is to try and negotiate with them. See if they're willing to leave voluntarily and if so, work out a mutually agreeable timeline. If negotiation isn't possible or successful, you'll need to take legal action and evict them.

The eviction process will differ depending on your state's laws, but you'll generally need to serve them with an eviction notice and then go through the court system to get a formal eviction order.

While it's not a pleasant experience to deal with squatters, understanding the law and taking action accordingly can help you resolve the issue quickly and smoothly.

Get in contact with your insurance company ASAP

If you have vacation rental insurance, your policy may cover you for this type of situation. It's essential to inform your insurance provider as soon as possible so they can help you with any losses you may incur. 

Document as much as possible for court

Include all communication, pictures, and documentation to help prove your case if it goes to court. Keep track of any threatening behavior from the squatter. If you are threatened in any way, make sure to document this as well. It is crucial that you show you tried to deal with the squatter legally and amicably. 

Final Thoughts on Airbnb Squatters Rights

The best way to deal with squatters and squatters’ rights is to prevent them from squatting in the first place. Be sure to screen your guests thoroughly, require a security deposit, and invest in squatter insurance. If you do have squatters on your property, familiarize yourself with the squatters' rights in your area and take action accordingly.

Get in contact with your insurance company and document everything to help prove your case. You can minimize the hassle and stress of dealing with squatters by taking these precautions.

Host Tools provides an automated, unified calendar for short-term rental hosts, allowing you to seamlessly list on all major channels. Start your free trial today! 

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