Dealing with Squatters

You survived the immediate effects when the Shit Hit The Fan (SHTF), and bugged out. By preparedness, skill, fortune, or a combination of everything, you manage to survive the trip to your new home… only to find it infested with squatters.

What should you do?

What used to be called “squatters-rights” won’t exist after the SHTF. These trespassers have put their grubby paws all over your gear and are mooching off your family’s supplies.

What you do to remove these trespassers depends on the situation. Some people may want to remain as “moral” as possible by evicting the trespassers. However, sticking to your morals shouldn’t come at the expense of your life, and you need to be prepared to exterminate the infestation.

The rural community has a lot of good and decent people, but I know from experience that it has a lot of trash too[1]. Keeping this in mind, I’ve listed a few ways that may help you overcome this situation.

With Family

If your family bugs out and finds someone squatting at your new home, here’s a possible solution:

  1. Tell the family to take key positions and cover the property.
  2. Walk up with proof of ownership (utility/tax bill, deed, keys, etc.).
  3. Announce your presence while approaching… fully armed and ready for anything[2].
  4. Introduce yourself as the owner and warn the squatters of the snipers covering the property.
  5. Show proof of ownership and ask the squatters to leave.
  6. Allow the squatters no more than 5 minutes to vacate[3]. This gives them enough time to collect personal items before leaving, but also reduces the chance they’ll try stealing things or attack.
  7. Make it very clear they’re not welcome and should never return. You may want to remind them of the crime they committed and the fact that you could have killed them, and they shouldn’t squander this second chance.

If Alone

  1. Go to a vantage point that oversees the property.
  2. Spy on the squatters to verify how many there are and plan your next step.
  3. Remain at your vantage point and announce your presence to the squatters. Let them know you’re the owner and demand they disarm. Be prepared to kill if they don’t immediately comply, or if they do anything suspicious.
  4. Attach your proof of ownership to a rock and toss it toward them.
  5. Once they review the proof, tell them they have 5 minutes to leave or you’ll start shooting.

A couple things to remember regardless of being alone or with a team:

You could try ambushing the squatters, but the risk of discovery is high. Even if you spring a perfect ambush, the squatters may panic and draw weapons, forcing you to kill them. If you end up killing the squatters, you’ll need to dispose of the bodies and defend your actions should anyone come to investigate.

Whatever you do, don’t let the squatters convince you to let them stay. These people broke into your home and stole, not just your belongings, but the whole house too. They’re not to be trusted and if you’re dumb enough to give in to their pleas, you’ll wake up to a knife slitting your throat.

Neighborly Plan

What if the squatters are well armed and look a bit too dangerous to confront? What if your family still hasn’t come to terms with the new reality and you know they aren’t prepared to shoot anyone? Or, what if the family dog barks at everything it sees and blows your cover?

I know, that’s a lot of “what ifs.”

If you happen to be friends with your neighbors, or have always been friendly to them, you could ask for their assistance in reclaiming your property. If you’re friends, they’ll gladly help you. They may even feel a bit guilty for not noticing and taking action to prevent this from happening.

But what if you aren’t exactly friends, but have always been a good neighbor? They may not be as eager to help you, but I think they’ll come to your aid regardless. For starters, most people living in the country have deep-rooted morals, and helping a neighbor in need is just something you do. After all, they’d expect you to do the same thing for them if the roles were reversed. Another reason why they’ll come to your aid is because it’s in their best interest to keep undesirables as far away from their home as possible.

Anyone who breaks and enters a home to steal resources is undesirable, but it takes real scum to steal the whole house!

What if you don’t know your neighbors or they aren’t willing to stick their necks out for your family? You may need to offer a portion of the supplies you recover in exchange for their assistance, or commit to remove the squatters yourself[4].

Personally, I think asking your neighbors for assistance is the safest plan, but you may find yourself in a situation that makes it impossible to get their assistance. If that’s the case, you should fall back on the other plans I’ve described.

A Few Words of Caution

Revenge

If you evicted the squatters and told them to move on, you must keep a constant vigil. They know where you live, how your property is set up, and how many people you have. It’ll be easy for them to return 1 or 2 days later and retake your home for themselves. It’s in their best interest to prevent you and your family from trying to retake your property again, which means they’ll probably kill you.

This is especially true if you’re alone, or didn’t have neighborly support when you confronted them.

Gossip

The squatters will tell their sad tale to anyone they see. They’ll describe your home and how “cruel” your family is. As they tell and retell the story, it will become even more exaggerated. People will eventually start believing that your family is selfish and is sitting on a mountain of food. They’ll come asking for hand-outs, and may think they’re serving justice if they attack your uncharitable family.

Heavy-Handed

It may seem like it’s in your best interest to eliminate the problem entirely, but this may have consequences too.

  1. Foremost, is the inconvenient fact that you’ll need to dispose of the bodies. Doing so will take time and energy away from moving in and setting up your own defenses.
  2. If your neighbors come to investigate, you’ll need to defend your actions.
  3. If an entire family is killed in the process, it may be seen as excessive. Technically, you did the right thing to reclaim your property and your neighbors won’t do anything against you. However, as things get progressively worse, those neighbors may start seeing you as a monster and may not come to your aid in the future.

Remember that your actions may have far-reaching consequences for your family later on.

Inside a Neighborhood

What if the neighborhood collectively decided it needed to loot your home and take everything of value? And then gave your home to some stranger to boot!

If you had to pass through security, chances are the authorities already know your home was looted and they allowed new tenants to move in. If the neighborhood leaders are halfway decent people, they would have recorded an inventory of supplies taken into the public record with the intention of returning the confiscated supplies, with interest, at some future date.

With this in mind, the leaders should have a plan for welcoming homeowners back into the community. The leadership should publicly announce your family’s return and apologize for looting your home. Once the current occupants are moved out of your home, the least they can do is return a portion of your supplies from the local food bank… regardless of how scarce food and survival equipment may be.

All of this needs to happen on the same day, or the next morning if the family arrived at night.

What if the neighborhood refuses to return your property?

I can think of a couple reasons why the neighborhood leadership may not want to return your home. One is legitimate and the other because of pettiness or greed. Both are shitty situations to be in and I’ll describe the possible scenarios which may challenge a family.

Legitimate Cause

The only legitimate reason for not returning your property is if it’s located at a strategic location or it’s essential to the community’s survival.

Maybe your home on the hill is in the center of the neighborhood, making it the perfect warehouse to store the food and supplied they stole from other abandoned buildings. Moving all that inventory to another location will require too much time and energy, and there’s a chance some of the supplies may get “lost” during the move. Once the move is complete, who knows if the owner of that building will return. They’d have to go through the process all over again.

It’s a terrible situation to be in, but it makes sense for the neighborhood to temporarily keep your home.

Illegitimate Reason

But what if that bitch of a neighbor, Karen[5], somehow worms her way into ruling the neighborhood? She’s always given your family grief over planting two apple trees in your yard. Now that society collapsed, she can’t believe her luck to be living next to such a valuable food source, and the disaster eliminated that bothersome family in the process. She can’t wait to pop open your house to see what other treasures it may hold.

Karen convinced the neighborhood to claim “eminent domain” over your home and physically rubbed her hands with delight as she watched her cronies inventory food, water, and other useful equipment. The trees can’t be relocated, so she moved one of her supporters into your home to maintain control over that resource.

But dammit! Your family’s inconvenient return threatens to undo all her hard work and planning. Karen doesn’t feel like she needs to return your property and wants to keep it… for the community.

What can you do?!

Whether the neighborhood claimed your home because of its strategic location, or someone’s pettiness and greed. The neighborhood leadership has all the power in this situation and your options are limited. If they truly need your home, they’re going to keep it. I envision a couple things may happen and I’ll use the previous scenarios as an example.

A New Hope

If the community offers to move your family into someone else’s home, you should provisionally accept the offer. Your home may not be strategically important forever, which means your family may be able to reclaim it later.

The Empress Strikes Back

A shrewd dictatorial leader will disarm your family upon entry, under the guise of a security procedure while they verify your identity and claim to the home. This will keep the family from killing Karen when she announces that you aren’t allowed to move back into your home. She’ll publicly claim to cherish you as a beloved neighbor, but the decision is ultimately out of her hands. They did an emergency review of the community’s supplies and there simply isn’t enough to support another family. Your family must leave and go somewhere else. Maybe things will improve and they can let you move back.

If this happens, you’ll have no choice but to move on.

Return of the Famil-i

People like Karen always make enemies, and your situation may be the last straw. The community should be appalled by Karen’s decision to deny a family their rightful home and banish them to certain death. Such an injustice could spark an uprising to remove her and her allies from power. If the community has a daily newsletter, the headline story may look like this:

Karen and several members of the neighborhood committee suffered various accidents overnight[6]. Nobody knows how or why this happened, but one local preacher suggests it was punishment from God for the sin of pride and not showing charity to thy neighbor. In other news, the new interim government reconsidered the decision to exile our neighbors, and would like to extend a warm welcome as they move back into their home.

If an uprising doesn’t spontaneously occur overnight, try moving into an abandoned building near the neighborhood and “squat” there until a regime-change happens. Maybe the new leadership will be more welcoming and reverse the decision.

***

Squatters are a nuisance in today’s society and will be a bigger problem if the SHTF. If you find yourself plagued by such locusts, evaluate the situation and evict or exterminate them. But do so in a way that ensures your safety and doesn’t cause you to be a pariah to the community.

It will be hard to hold desperate people at gunpoint and tell them to take a hike, but it’s not your problem what happens to them. You made the investments necessary to be prepared and these criminals shouldn’t benefit off that hard work.


[1] Trash: I have first-hand, second-hand, and gossip-pel experience of this sort of people. They’re usually drug addicts, people who’ve been in and out of jail, or ignorant “bumkins” who think it’s okay to do whatever you want because Officer John-Paul’s my cousin and will smooth everything out with the law.

Humanity may award a Nobel Prize for removing that part of the gene-pool.

[2] Ready for Anything: If these people were desperate enough to break into your home, they may be desperate enough to attack you to keep the property.

[3] 5-Minutes: 5 minutes may seem harsh, but these moochers have been stealing your valuable resources. They may have already lowered your chances of survival. Who cares if they leave some of their belongings, consider it rent.

[4] Unneighborly Neighbors: If your neighbors refuse to help you reclaim your property, you should probably keep them at arms-length. Anyone who allows such a crime to happen next to their home should not be trusted.

[5] Karen: Our society has turned this name into a pejorative term for entitled or demanding women. I once knew a loving and caring woman named, Karen, and feel a little guilty for using the term in this article. However, it is a common and relatable term which best describes the loathsome neighbor I’m envisioning.

I apologize in advance to anyone who may be so named.

[6] Accident: Remember readers! I do not condone or advise the use of violence or breaking any just law, nor do I of vigilante justice.

Rural Neighborhood v Wilderness

Where do you think is the best place to bug out to when the SHTF and you’re faced with a survival situation?

Which is the best and safest location for your family, a rural neighborhood or the wilderness? 

The idea of living in the wilderness or somewhere in the woods is self-explanatory, but what exactly is a “rural neighborhood”? I define a rural neighborhood as a small residential community, located at least 50 miles away from a metropolis, and outside the limits of any nearby town or village. These are places where county laws apply. Some communities matching this description are gated or have restricted access. 

Which is safer?

Both options have pros and cons, and I’ll try to cover everything you may face at each location. 

Pros & Cons for Both

A rural neighborhood and a shack in the wilderness are ideally located to escape the immediate effects of a devastating attack. Both are remote enough to reduce, if not eliminate, any direct impact from a chemical attack. And both are probably safe from follow up attacks as well.

If a biological attack were to occur, being so far away from a major population center may help insulate your community. However, this will only slow the spread of the contagion because members of the community may be exposed through work in a nearby city or metropolis, as we’ve seen with Covid-19.

The only way a rural community will stand a greater chance of being protected from a biological attack is if a massive nuclear assault happens at the same time. The immediate reduction of population caused by the nukes, when combined with the disease, will hopefully slow or stop it before contaminated survivors reach your community. Remember that no community is 100% protected, and one day the disease will reach your community.

I just hope our failure with Covid-19 and its variants don’t haunt us when a true biological attack occurs[1].

Another good thing about both locations is that your neighbors will likely possess firearms. Having armed neighbors adds to the area’s overall security, and serves as a deterrent against would-be robbers, looters, and vandals. A local militia can be formed to protect the community from hostile outsiders who may attack or steal resources.

Rural Neighborhood – Pros

More Eyes = Security

Ordinary people are less likely to commit a crime if someone is watching, because the possibility of intervention is too great. Even if nobody is present, the threat of witnesses coming out of the woodwork has prevented many crimes in the past. However, you shouldn’t rely on these passive security concepts once people start getting desperate.

Defense

Once supplies run out and ordinary people become desperate, raiders will come and try to take what little resources your community has. Thankfully, your neighbors will probably be armed and will make it easier to form a militia to defend the community. 

Point of Entry

Most rural residential communities have limited entry points, which should make it easier to predict where intruders may enter. With that said, don’t focus your entire defense on the obvious points of entry. You need to interview your neighbors to locate commonly used trails and start patrolling those areas. 

Vacancies

Another benefit to a rural community is that many of your neighbors probably don’t live there permanently. Those neighbors have a home in the city and may not survive the journey to their second home. This adds to the looting potential[2]… I must stress that the community, as a whole, must agree to break into vacant homes to loot and distribute any resources found within. Everything must be transparent, and an accurate account of supplies acquired must be recorded. 

There can’t be any question as to what was taken and later distributed because that will cause suspicion of hoarding or favoritism. I’d also recommend the community be prepared for the possibility that an owner may return. If that happens, the community should reimburse the owner for the “lost” resources. 

Rural Neighborhood – Cons

What makes a neighborhood safe, can also backfire…

You must remain vigilant against busy-bodies because those are the neighbors who’re most likely to stir shit up and rally others in the community against whatever the cause of the day is. They will try to organize community programs and publicly shame those who don’t participate in their pet projects.

The danger you must watch out for happens when those busy-bodies try to force an entire neighborhood to pull resources, just to carry their dead-weight. If these people are given any position of power, they may trespass onto your property to conduct a “safety check” or “resident survey”. That may sound innocent, but they’re true goal is to spy on you and your property and see if there’s anything valuable worth stealing[3]. When public shaming doesn’t work, they will rally your most desperate neighbors into a communist uprising against you.

Everyone’s a Capitalist when times are good and they have a nice 401k, but when the SHTF, they all think it’s a grand idea to be a Commie.

The Wilderness – Pros

Seclusion

The chances of someone finding your home in the middle of an overgrown forest aren’t very high. This inherent seclusion adds to security because would-be looters can’t steal what they can’t find. Even if your home is in the open desert, the likelihood that someone will trek out to your remote hideaway are low[4]

Secret Domain

Since there’s so few neighbors, that should mean only a few people know the lay of the land. You and your family will know where to stash supplies and where to hide if being pursued. Ideally, this should also mean you’ll know where the best places are to set up boobytraps.

Living off the Land

Living in the wilderness means you’ll have more land available for foraging, hunting, and farming. If you have an acreage in the woods, you can lay out traps for small animals and forage for nuts, berries, and other edible vegetation[5]. You can clear some land to grow a farm, or use a natural clearing.

Room to Expand

If you’re the trusting sort or know someone trustworthy with the skills to survive, you may have extra space so they can move in with you. I’m not willing to take that risk with a stranger. At least not until I know the person’s character and have developed some sort of working relationship. 

The Wilderness – Cons

Access to Medicine

Having a home in the wilderness means getting help during an emergency will be much harder than living in a community, which may have a doctor and medical supplies.

If you’re bit or stung by a venomous creature, or have a heart attack, you could die before reaching medical assistance. Or, if you slip or trip down a steep hill and break a leg, you will have to perform first aid and make the journey to the nearest known medic… in agony. 

If you suffer a minor injury and don’t know where to find treatment, you may be forced to let your body heal itself. Humans have been getting injured for millennia and the body knows how to put minor breaks back together again[6]. The drawback to letting a fracture heal without professional assistance is that it may not heal correctly.

Security

Living in the middle of the woods will help keep your home hidden, but the rough terrain will mean that any intruder willing to venture into the woods could come from any direction. It’ll be up to you and your family to ward off those intruders and secure the property. 

Remember when I said that raiders will eventually come to steal resources? Living outside of a community means you may be on your own to defend yourself when they attack. If there’s some sort of radio or sound-based alarm system[7], help may not arrive fast enough to save you and your family. 

Squatting

If you don’t own the land, you’re technically a squatter. What used to be called “squatters-rights” won’t exist if the SHTF[8]. If the original owners of the property show up and demand that you leave, you have the moral obligation to do so. You could try to negotiate with the owner and ask to stay a bit longer as a guest, but be prepared to leave if they refuse.

Alternately, what happens if it takes several days to reach your bug-out location and you find squatters living on your land? It’ll be up to you to evict these trespassers who’ve been mooching off your hard-earned preparedness. I’m writing an article on this subject and hope to post it in a week or so.

***

There are many advantages and disadvantages to living out on your own or within a community. You should be cognizant of the problems you may face when making your bug out plans or buying a property with this type of scenario in mind. 

Personal circumstances may make it impossible for you to choose where you’ll evacuate. Especially, if you cannot afford to purchase a second home or property, or don’t have family to take you in. Regardless of the situation, it’s always good to be prepared for what may happen… wherever you end up.


[1] True Bio-Attack: Some people hypothesis that Covid-19 was a soft attack against the western world. I will only mention this possibility because it certainly seems interesting that China and other totalitarian countries fared the best during the outbreak.

[2] Disclaimer: I do not condone or advise anyone to commit any crime.

[3] Resident Survey: When I lived in a large apartment complex, I once caught a maintenance worker inside my home “checking for water-leaks”. The overly nervous worker finished his token search and left. I noticed some things were missing, and changed the locks on the door when the facility said it wasn’t going to do anything to fix the problem.

[4] Desert: I’ve always been a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s: Dune series. While becoming a “desert creature” has a certain appeal, I’m too “water fat”. There aren’t any nearby deserts to make it practical, so I’m not trained to survive in a desert environment.

Much of the information contained my survival articles will not apply to desert survivalism.

[5] Edible Vegetation: If you don’t know if it’s edible, DO NOT EAT IT. That includes but is not limited to: fungi, berries, flowers, nuts, or any other part of a plant (root, leaf, or stem). Nature can be tricky, some parts of a perfectly edible plant can be poisonous.

[6] Medical Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and any perceived advice in this work needs to be regarded at the same level as an “old wives’ cure” or as part of fiction.  

[7] Alarm: Bells have been ringing for millennia. They’ve been used to warn of pending attacks, natural disasters… and dinner.

[8] Squatters-Rights: This legal protection of criminal trespassers should never have existed in the first place.