As many of you may have seen a few days ago, when I made a post on the blog about housing options the question came up about how to control squatters if you buy property and are not present in the Philippines. Well, I am certainly not an expert, but let me tell you about what we have done to control this problem.
First, I know that some people will ask what a squatter is, I have heard this question before. A squatter is a person who just comes and lives on your land. If you are living outside the country this is a particular problem, because you are not here to keep tabs on the property. The biggest problem is that once squatters take up residence on your land, it can be nearly impossible to get rid of them. You will have to go to court and get a court to order the squatters to leave, then you will have to force them off the land. When you do this, you will almost certainly gain a bad reputation for “kicking those poor folks off the land.” Believe me, the best thing you can do is to just keep the squatter problem from arising.
As many of you know, Feyma and I purchased a piece of land on Samal Island a few months ago. At first, we used to go over there maybe 4 or 5 times a week, so it would have been hard for a squatter to build a shack on the land and take up residence. Now, though, we are not going nearly as often, so we have to take precautions. There is a family who has a small house on the property behind ours. Although they don’t own the land, they are not squatters, because they haver permission from the land owner to live there. In exchange, they keep an eye on the property and don’t let squatters settle in. We have basically hired them to watch over our land too. We pay them P1,000 per month, and for that they work on clearing our land of weeds and brush, and also keep any problems with squatters and other problems from arising. P1,000 a month is a cheap price to pay to avoid the problem.
The first thing I would recommend for land owners (we have not been able to do this yet, since we just bought the property) is to put up a fence or a concrete wall around your property. Maybe put some signs on it that read “No Trespassing” – this may not stop the squatters, but at least it will clearly show that you are warning them to keep out. The wall or fence will do a good job for you too, probably eliminating 90% or more of the problem.
If you don’t wish to hire a person to watch your land, maybe you have family in the area or a friend who could swing by the property once per week or so to have a look.
Just use your common sense, and do whatever you can to have the property visited regularly to watch for problems. With some diligence you can avoid the squatter issue, even if you are living outside the Philippines!