Virginia Law Helps But....
Fortunately for us in Virginia, squatting and actually taking and claiming possession of a vacant home ("adverse possession") is somewhat more challenging than it may be in other states where just staying in the vacant home for a short period of time can allow someone to make a claim of possession. But it can be done in Virginia as this NOLO article describes and if the individual isn't interested in possession but just wants to stay in the vacant home until made to leave, the legal hoops aren't important.
However, that doesn't have anything to do with someone moving into your vacant home while you're away (particularly if you have no professional home watch service) and making themselves at home until they are forced to leave by law enforcement.
In the Northern Neck or Middle Peninsula?
Think it doesn't happen in the Northern Neck or Middle Peninsula of Virginia? Think again or just ask a local realtor or your Sheriff's Office. Realtors that have vacant listings in our area (including right here in Northumberland County) have stopped by to check on vacant homes that weren't as vacant as they were supposed to be. A call to the Sheriff will usually solve the problem but the question is, how much damage has been done during the unwanted guest's extended stay and some of their closest friends? (Note: see our blog on the costs and benefits of home watch services) Although the image in this article is from Florida, there have been Virginia cases in the news as well.
How Our Home Watch Services Help
This is why our professional and accredited home watch services are valuable and necessary when your home is vacant. We regularly visit your second or vacation home but rarely if ever visit on the same day and time each week or visit. Using public safety knowledge and perspective and our experience in the home watch and real estate professions, we constantly scan for signs of attempted or actual unauthorized entry and use and know when to engage law enforcement - proactively and otherwise.
Is Your Vacant Home on the Market?
Realtors can offer or suggest our services to owners of a vacant home or engage us directly to assist them in protecting vacant vacation and weekend homes. Some of the best realtors in our area (call us for referrals if you need one!) have many homes for sale that are vacant or unoccupied by the owners. Going by and checking on the homes to minimize loss and damage may be expected by sellers. Plus, what realtor wants to walk into a home to show potential buyers only to find out the home is damaged or occupied when it shouldn't be? That for sale sign is important for sales purposes, but could be letting everyone know you've moved.
And last, this is just one more reason why property insurers often charge an additional premium to owners of second homes that remain unoccupied for extended periods of time.