I have assembled a lock tool box. I have a Dewalt cordless drill with titanium bits. Assorted screw drivers, pry bars, pliers, etc. Ironically, we almost always find a door or window that is not completely locked and we find our way in. I am always amazed that we show up at what appears to be a vacant house and start breaking in and meet the neighbors. On a couple of occasions, they helped.
If someone is really living there, it is pretty obvious. However, it does not take much to constitute occupancy. We use a real character of an eviction attorney. His definition is a little strange, but he uses an analogy. He tells me, if you rented a room at the Fairmont, but decided to sleep in the park across the street with the homeless, you would still have a tenancy at the hotel. It really only takes the word of the ?tenant? to establish tenancy. We have purchased homes with no electricity, water, etc, with 90% of the furniture gone, we take possession, change the locks, and then a few days to a week later, someone shows up looking for their stuff. I had one guy show up and tell me he was living there wanted his stuff and wanted cash for keys. I asked him if the stuff he wanted was in the marijuana grow room. We gave him his stuff and he was never heard from again.
What happens when you buy a house at the auction is you essentially become the landlord and whoever is there or has stuff there, are tenants. The laws related to this relationship generally apply. For example, as the landlord, you own the locks, so you have every right to change the locks. However, you are supposed to give the tenant notice and do this only during business hours, etc. With the exception of houses that really appear to be occupied, we change locks within hours of the auction, This is to secure the property and protect our interests. In the event someone claims to be a tenant and that you locked them out, if you think that is true, all you have to do is give them a key. Yes, you could be liable for damages to the tenant, but if you give them a key as soon as you have notice, then there is not much risk. I think securing the property far outweighs the risks of locking out a tenant. I can deal with the lock out.
I purchased a house that was a reverse mortgage and the woman had died more than a year before the auction, there was a lot of furniture, a truck, etc, but it was clear no one was living there. The neighbors confirmed that no one was living there. None the less, this was a legal tenancy. So, we found a number for the woman?s son, called him, met with him, gave him a key and negotiated a schedule for him to get the stuff out. This all worked out for everyone, a week later he had moved everything out and we had legal possession without cash for keys or any legal action.
Yet on another house, we had to evict the owners and their ?tenants? required 5 months, with the sheriff helping them leave.
Occupancy is a big deal. Be sure to find out all that you can about who lives in the subject house before you bid and then bid accordingly. Look around the forum and you will see that cash for keys is the best way to get the occupants to leave, but you will also see that it does not always work and the occupants all know about CFK and some will try to extort whatever they can. I had one guy come right out and tell me that if I did not give him what he demanded, he would be removing the kitchen, etc.