Tips for Canadian Snowbirds to Avoid Having Squatters Take Over Their Properties

Tips for Snowbirds to Prevent Squatters

LAST UPDATED: April 17, 2024

If you’re a Canadian snowbird who owns a property in your winter destination, one thing you want to avoid at all costs is having squatters take over your winter property – or your property at home in Canada - while you aren’t there.

Squatters can be difficult - and in some cases almost impossible - to remove, not to mention extremely costly and stressful. They can also cause extensive property damage and create a strong feeling of personal violation.

Unfortunately, in recent years squatters have become a much bigger problem than in the past due to a number of factors including increased homelessness and poverty and squatter-friendly laws in many states – and in Canada.

Here’s what snowbirds need to know about squatters and how you can reduce the risk of having them invade your winter property while you’re not there.

These tips also apply to protecting your property in Canada from squatters while you are away for the winter.

What is a squatter?

A squatter is generally defined as an uninvited person or persons who, unbeknownst to the owner, moves into an empty property and claim a right to reside there, making it legally and logistically difficult to remove them.

However, squatting can also occur when a lawful tenant refuses to move out after their lease is up, which can potentially affect snowbirds who rent out their properties when they are not there.

What are the laws with respect to squatters?

As a property owner, it would be reasonable to assume that if your home was invaded by squatters, there would be an easy, clear-cut process to quickly evict these trespassers.

Unfortunately, many property owners who fall victim to squatters are shocked to learn that squatters have rights – no matter how egregious their behaviour is. and getting rid of them is usually a long, costly and stressful process. Even more shocking – and offensive – is the fact that by not following the local laws to get rid of squatters, you could actually end up on the wrong side of the law.

Squatters’ rights vary from state to state, but a number of states have laws that make it very hard to get squatters out once they have entered your property.

Property owners must follow a number of legal procedures to legally evict squatters and have them removed from their property. In many cases, it can take several months – or longer – to have a squatter legally removed from your property.

Florida the first state to pass anti-squatting law

In March 2024, Florida became the first state to pass legislation that allows property owners to call the sheriff’s office to remove squatters if they cannot provide documents proving they have the right to live in a property. 

It also provides for owners to file an affidavit to prove they own the property.

The new law criminalizes squatting, making it illegal to move into private property, and makes it faster and easier for property owners to evict squatters.

Governor Ron DeSantis commented on the new law, saying “it’s important for our state to lay down the law because we have a lot of seasonal residents …middle income retirees who go home for the summer.”

Other snowbird states such as Arizona, California, Texas, South Carolina and Hawaii have not yet taken such action and squatters are more difficult to remove, even if they don’t have the right to remain permanently.

Tips for avoiding squatters

Given the time, cost and stress associated with removing squatters, your best bet as a snowbird is to take all possible precautions to avoid having squatters enter your property in the first place.

While none of these precautions are 100% effective at preventing squatters, snowbirds whose homes are vacant for a good part of the year can follow these tips to significantly reduce the likelihood of squatters taking over your property when you’re not there:

  1. Hire a home watch service or person

Snowbirds should hire a home watch service to make regular visits to their home while they are away. A home watch service is a reliable method of both maintaining your home, as well as ensuring there are no unwelcome residents.

  1. Have your neighbors keep an eye on your place

If you have year-round neighbors, ask them to watch your home and let you know if they see anyone suspicious who looks like they shouldn’t be there.

  1. Make your property look lived in when you’re not there  

There are many ways you can make your home look lived in, even when it isn’t. Don’t let newspapers, magazine subscriptions or mail pile up, put some of your interior and exterior lights on timers and have the lawn/yard/landscaping maintained.

  1. Install a smart home monitoring/alarm system

There are some excellent home monitoring camera and alarm systems available that allow you to monitor your home from anywhere. It’s worth investing in one of these systems to keep an eye on your snowbird property while you’re not there.

  1. Rent your property out to a trusted tenant when you aren’t there

While potentially risky, renting your winter home or home in Canada out during the months you are not there is another way of preventing squatters from moving in. However, you will need to ensure you are renting to trusted tenants who will respect the terms of the lease and move out on the agreed date. If you do rent out your property, make sure you have a written agreement with a clear end date.

What to do if you get squatters in your home

If you are the victim of squatters at your property, engage a local lawyer immediately who specializes in landlord and tenant matters to provide you with guidance on how to proceed.

Do not attempt to negotiate with the squatters yourself as this can be dangerous - and could land you in hot water legally if you don’t follow the proper eviction rules.

Disclaimer: The material provided on the website is for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, real estate, medical or other advice, and should not be relied on as such. If you require such advice, you should retain a qualified professional to advise you.

Snowbird Services & Resources

Travel Insurance

The travel insurance specialists for snowbirds, boomers and seniors. Get the right coverage at the right price...

Virtual Pharmacy & Doctor Visits

Free prescription medication delivery + virtual doctor visits and more...

Currency Exchange

Save on currency exchange with preferred rates from Snowbird Advisor...

Vehicle Transport

Have your car shipped between Canada and the U.S. for the winter...

Snowbird Destination Guides

Get the inside scoop on select snowbird destinations...