The trend of house squatting is still a problem in southwest Florida, with two Naples squatters behind bars this summer after brazenly entering and living in the vacation homes of seasonal residents. One woman made herself at home, prying through an unsecured garage window and proceeding through an unlocked door between the garage and the home. The woman didn’t just break in to steal a few items, she began living in the home, driving the owner’s vehicle and trashing the house with cigarettes, dirty clothes, and wine glasses strewn about. Another woman broke into an East Naples home and lived there for a week before she was discovered. Like many Naples homeowners, these owners had been out of state for months and now the homeowners are left to pick up the pieces.
In February a Cape Coral serial squatter had to be officially evicted before he left one home and this man man knew just how to play the system. The home’s unsuspecting owners, who were out of state, had no idea who the man was or that anyone was living in their home. The Lee County Sheriff’s office reports that there are hundreds of vacant or seasonally vacant homes being occupied by squatters in southwest Florida and most owners have no idea. If you do find out your home is being lived in by unauthorized individuals and happen call the police, their hands are often tied when the “renters” produce legitimate utility bills in their names or phony leases.
If you are a victim of squatting, it may not be as simple as calling the police, even if you are in the right and have proof. Many victims in this situation have to resort to an expensive and time-consuming eviction process. To prevent this from happening to you, make sure your home is fully secured and that you have a plan to secure your home before you head back up north.
If you are a seasonal resident of Naples, here’s a few tips to secure your home before you head back north for the off-season:
- Make sure you have a trusted neighbor, friend, or home watch service lined up to check on your home periodically while you are away.
- Don’t let yard work go to the wayside and ask a neighbor to periodically park their car and put their trashcan in your driveway on trash day so it appears that someone is home.
- Install light timers to a few interior lights so that your house looks occupied.
- If you haven’t rekeyed your locks since you purchased your home or if someone you don’t fully trust may have a copy of your key, rekey your locks.
- If you have them, reinforce your sliding glass doors so they can’t be easily opened from the outside (the standard lock that comes with your sliding door offers almost no protection!). Criminals in Naples have learned that sliders are an easy, quiet, stealthy, method of entry into many homes.
- Don’t leave a spare set of house or car keys in your home unless you have them locked in a quality safe.
- Make sure your car is parked in your garage and that the garage door opener is with you, not at your house. For more tips on securing your garage, click here.
- Install and turn on your alarm system so that you and the police are notified if there’s a break-in.
We have many solutions for securing homes so that you can live worry-free whether you are gone for the day or for 6 months. Our one-of-a-kind Home Security Survey is free with any other home lock service and is a great way to learn about the potential security pit-falls of your home. Call today for professional locksmith service by one of our highly trained and background-checked technicians.