Squatters can be a great concern for property owners. And every year we ask ourselves again: What if we return from holiday and our house is being occupied?
Coming home after enjoying a long weekend away from home can be a real drama if you find the house intruded with unwanted people. This article by ShBarcelona tell you more on this issue, and we will provide you with a list of measures on how to prevent squatters from invading your home. We will also discuss what happens if squatters have already taken over your place.
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How to prevent intruders?
Always keep the property inhabited
This might seem a little too obvious, but this is the only way to prevent unwanted people from entering your home while you are away. And if the apartment is not your main place of residence, you can always consider renting it out with the help of ShBarcelona. You can opt for long term contracts, shorter contracts and – with the right licence – turn your home into tourist accommodation.
With renters you prevent your home from looking empty and accesible to squatters, and so this is a great solution to avoid the problem. ShBarcelona offers the best service for whatever duration of a rental contract you choose. We emphasize finding the right tenant for your property, by selecting a potential tenant and making a tenant solvency report.
Make it look as if someone is living there
It is old news, but it works: you can prevent your home being squatted by making it look like it is inhabited. Squatters have an eye for finding homes that are not occupied, and can quickly notice if it is not regularly used. These practical tips can make your apartment look inhabited:
- Leave no mail in the mailbox
- Open and close curtains or blinds regularly
- Turn on the lights when it gets dark
- Keep watering your plants on the balcony
- Take care of a garden
- Visit the property on a regular basis
These recommendations will never go out of style, and if you know and trust your neighbours, they can help you with some of these tasks. If you find the subject interesting, read our article on 11 tips on how to prevent a home burglary.
If you have a little money to invest in the property, decide on if you want to add some technological measures. There are many innovative devices that deal with squatters, so let’s give you a list of items that you could consider to better protect your home.
1. Have window security bars installed
Although they may not look very appealing to you, security bars – especially if your apartment is on street level or has easy access – will prevent most intruders from trying to enter your house through its windows. This highly recommended measure is a classic, but it still works wonders.
2. Smart locks
A smart lock is a digital device, and this is the only way to open the door digitally. The lock can therefore not be forced, as can be done with traditional locks.
3. Armored doors
To keep squatters outside the house, contemplate having an armored door installed by a professional. It is designed especially to prevent unwanted people from entering your home, and special plating provides these doors with extra strength. You can buy an armored door, but they are also for rent.
4. Alarm system with police response
When you start looking at different security alarm systems, you will find plenty of options. Some systems directly warn a property owner when something is happening inside the house when the owner is away. Other systems will alert the police. There are also security companies that provide 24/7 services, and this means that when an alarm goes off, security will check your property to see if there is a break-in or not.
A whole different type of alarm system is when you use gas to prevent intruders from seeing anything inside your house. Another effective measure is pepper spray. When an unauthorized person enters your property, the contents of the pepper spray bottle is sprayed onto the intruder. Although using gas or pepper spray are aggresive means to keep unwanted guests from getting inside your home, this is undoubtedly an extremely usefull measure.
5. Security cameras
To make better use of your security alarm system, combine it with a security camera. You can often connect it with your phone, so when something unusual is happening inside your house, it will send an alarm to your mobile phone and you can see everything inside the house live on camera.
You don’t necessarily need to be at home to turn the lights on or off, or open or close the blinds. You can buy a device to take these actions remotely. The upside is that you can check your home if you also have a security camera inside the house, and seeing that everything is fine every now and then makes you feel more at ease.
7. Keep copies of important documents elsewhere
When you need to file a report, they always ask for the property deeds. And this is where having copies of any of your key documents outside of your home comes in handy, because valuable papers is exactly what squatters look for when entering a new place to stay. Many times having a scanned copy of these documents on your phone or in your digital mailbox will do the job.
Related article: What is a Smart Home?
What if squatters have entered your home?
The first 48 hours after illegal occupation are crucial
If you encounter unwanted guests inside your home, the element of time is of key importance. If you respond within the first 48 hours, the police is allowed to act without the use of an official warrant.
So this means that if your place of residence is being entered illegally, it is considered trespassing and law enforcement may enter your home and remove these intruders.
Neighbours hearing strange noises coming from inside your property may also alarm the police to have them check the house. It could also be a burglary and police can then act upon this assumption, as they don’t always know why unwanted guests have entered the apartment.
There are two legal actions when proceeding:
File a civil case
This legal procedure can be initiated to claim back possession of the property. It will involve the eviction of illegal inhabitants or the repossession of the property.
File a criminal case
You need to file a case with the police or the local court. It is important to provide evidence of the property belonging to you. Sufficient evidence could be the property deeds, a census register certifcate, utility bills or any other document that proves you are living in this property.
What if the 48 hours have already passed?
In case the two days have already gone by, your property will unfortunately be the squatters’ home from then on. They are even protected by Spanish Law, as the home may then no longer be entered without a court order to get rid of the squatters. So the question remains: How to protect your home from intruders? Act quickly!
If the two day have passed, both civial and criminal cases can take up to two years to be judged.
Has your home ever been squatted? Any advice?
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