Are you familiar with the term “squatter” and how these unwanted guests can occupy your Airbnb, Vrbo, or direct booking properties? This isn’t an issue that many short-term rental hosts imagine that they have to deal with, but recently it has become a bigger issue among Airbnb rentals. Along with the rise of mid-term rentals due to the pandemic and guests realizing that they can travel and work from anywhere, the risk of squatters has greatly increased due to the long periods of stays. Due to the fear of acquiring a squatter, hosts around the nation have found themselves with no choice but to screen guests and limit their stays to 29 days. Don’t let this growing problem scare you into limiting your revenue or keep you from cashing in on the mid-term rental opportunity. Read on to learn how to prepare and protect your vacation rental from squatters.
In this article you can find:
- How to Identify a Squatter
- Understanding Squatter Rights
- Steps to Evict a Squatter
- Squatter Insurance Coverage Options
- Verifying Your STR Insurance
How to Identify an Airbnb Squatter
When most people hear the term squatter, they imagine a middle-class nomad looking to explore a new lifestyle in someone else’s home. This type of person believes that they aren’t doing anyone any harm in occupying the location because it was vacant and going to waste. Within the past few years, there has been a new development of the squatter. Short-term rental owners are found dealing with sophisticated squatters who are more scam artists than mere nomads off the street. These direct booking, Vrbo, or Airbnb squatters know how to abuse the law to gain possession of your vacation rental property just by occupying it for a given period of time.
The actual definition of a squatter is someone that is knowingly and willingly occupying a rental property of another person without authority or permission with the intention of staying or living there. A squatter can be viewed as someone who refuses to leave your property but:
- Has a lapsed lease
- Has stopped paying rent
- Has breached the lease in any way
In the eyes of a short-term rental owner, this could be a guest that has rented out your Airbnb for a week and after that week has ended, they refuse to pack up and leave. For example, an Airbnb host in Palm Springs, CA, had an unfortunate situation of going through the process of trying to evict two Airbnb squatters at her vacation rental property. It all began when the Airbnb guests, the Pashanin brothers, refused to pay in full and then followed by a text saying that they refuse to leave and legally can claim that they are tenants at her property under California Adverse Possession Laws. This is when the Airbnb host realized she was dealing with a bigger situation than someone refusing to pay at the end of their rental period.
Another example that took place this past March, was an Airbnb host encountered an Airbnb squatter at his rental property and the Airbnb guest refused to leave after her stay was up. The guest started bringing her own furniture, re-arranging the garden and hired a bodyguard to protect herself from being removed from the Airbnb rental property. It’s important to stay informed on this matter to hopefully prevent this from happening to you and your vacation rental property.
These are just a few examples in which a guest would become a squatter but keep in mind there are many other ways that this could happen to your vacation rental.
Do Airbnb Squatters Have Rights?
It may be hard to imagine that an illegal squatter would have rights but believe it or not, they do! Squatter’s Rights refer to adverse possession* laws, which allow a squatter to use or inhabit another person’s property in the event the lawful owner does not evict or take action against the squatter. Adverse possession* laws entitle someone who moves onto the property and possesses it in an open and obvious manner to potentially acquire the title, after a certain period of time. This may seem wrong to you as the rightful owner, but this law exists to discourage the ownership of a property that remains unused.
In most states, after 30 days of occupation, a guest can claim tenant rights; keep in mind adverse possession laws vary from state to state, so be sure to review your short-term rental’s location. With the emerging popularity of squatters in short-term rentals, many sites recommend that Airbnb, Vrbo, or direct booking hosts keep their rental periods under 30 days to avoid squatters. With the rise in mid-term rentals over the past year, some hosts have started to rethink their mid-term rental periods in fear of acquiring a squatter. With Proper Insurance, there’s no need to rethink your vacation rental periods because we’ve custom-written a policy that directly addresses this issue. Continue below to see how Proper Squatter Coverage will assist you if you have the unfortunate experience of dealing with a squatter at your Airbnb, Vrbo, or direct rental property.
How to Evict a Squatter From My Airbnb?
It is extremely important to immediately take action to protect your Airbnb and keep it under your possession. This can be a timely and difficult process because many Airbnb squatters attempt to gain tenant rights. Here are some steps to take when in the process of evicting a squatter:
File an action for possession or unlawful detainer. This process should work for squatters who are claiming to be tenants, refusing to leave your Airbnb. It is important to note whether the Airbnb squatter is entitled to possession or not, the landlord has to show that there is no lease or that the lease has expired. This will prove that the tenant has no legal right to be staying there.
Begin the eviction process. This process involves informing the Airbnb squatter that they don’t have permission to occupy the property and asking them to leave. It important to start this process quickly, so you don’t run into issues with the adverse possession* law.
Maintain all documentation with the squatter. This will start building up evidence that you’ve attempted to fix the situation in a lawful and compliant manner. Also take note if the squatter is aggressive or threatens you in any way, as this can be used in court.
Call Your Insurance! Does your current insurance policy cover squatters? This is something you should be aware of in advance but if you’re unsure, take a look at your policy or call your agent immediately to find out. If you have coverage, you’ll want to submit a claim. Without squatter coverage, your claim will be denied, and you would have to cover these costs out of pocket.
Proper Insurance Squatter Coverage
As short-term rental insurance specialists, we’re always listening to our clients and working to build the best policy available for short-term rental hosts. After seeing how serious the squatter problem has become, we knew we had to do something about it. Proper is proud to be the first-ever to provide coverage if you were to encounter a squatter at your rental property. If you insure your short-term or mid-term rental through Proper Insurance, your policy will include the following squatter protections:
$10,000 in Loss of Business Income. Proper will pay up to this amount for the Loss of Business Income* you sustain due to a squatter refusing to leave the Insured Location described in the Policy Declaration* after the agreed rental period has ended. It’s also important to note that while you could lose income due to a squatter occupying your Airbnb, business income loss could also stem from having to restore your Airbnb due to damages the squatter caused.
$5,000 in Actual Expenses Incurred. Proper will pay up to this amount in any one period for any actual expenses an Airbnb squatter has incurred. Here are a few examples of actual expenses that you could face when dealing with a squatter:
- Evicting an Airbnb squatter. If you have reached the point of having to evict an Airbnb guest who refuses to leave the Insured Location described in the policy declaration* after the agreed rental period has ended, this coverage will reimburse you for the following eviction expenses that you incur:
- Necessary, reasonable, and proportionate legal fees payable to a lawyer or other suitably qualified person who has been appointed to you in any civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction to evict the squatter from the Insured Location, and this could cost up to $3,500
- Court Costs: up to $800
- Sheriff fees: up to $400
- Property Damage. While the squatter is occupying there is potential that they have caused damage or started remodeling your Airbnb to fit their needs
Verify Your Insurance Coverage Today
Curious what your policy could look like with squatter coverage, bed bug coverage, liquor liability, and more? Proper Insurance leads the Nation in short-term rental insurance, with over 50,000 policies written in all 50 states. Backed by Lloyd’s of London and exclusive endorsements from vacation rental leaders such as Vrbo, Proper Insurance is built on world-class insurance coverage. Proper’s policy covers vacation homes, townhouses, condos, duplexes, cabins, cottages, apartments, and more. With expert vacation rental underwriters, we can tailor a policy specific to your short-term rental property.
If you have questions or would like to compare your current policy to the custom short-term rental policy offered by Proper Insurance, give us a call at 888-631-6680 to receive a comprehensive coverage comparison or visit our website to submit an online quote request today!
*Adverse Possession: The occupation of land to which another person has the title with the intention of possessing it as one’s own.
*Policy Declaration: Summarizes the information essential to your insurance coverage. It will include your name and address, descriptions of the insured property, and your premium.
*Loss of Business Income: Income that is lost due to a slowdown or suspension of operations of the business. For example, a vacation rental owner could experience suspension of business when there is time required to repair or replace the damaged property and the income loss would be covered up to the specified amount in your policy.