Phrogging: A Hidden Threat for Landlords

What would you do if someone was secretly living in one of your rental properties without your knowledge? This article covers the practice of "phrogging," where people secretly live in homes they don't own. Discover how to detect if this is happening and how to protect your investments.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
April 11, 2024
Phrogging: A Hidden Threat for Landlords

As a vigilant guardian of your rental properties, you're on a mission to ensure they're not just buildings, but havens of safety and comfort for your tenants. But lurking in the shadows is a sinister threat known as "phrogging," ready to leap into your well-managed domain and wreak havoc on your properties and the safety of those who call them home. Brace yourself as we delve into this clandestine world where security is compromised, and the very fabric of your landlordship is put to the test.

This article explores the concept and distinguishes it from the more well-known practice of squatting. We'll cover the signs that can help detect someone secretly living on your properties and share practical strategies to enhance security. By understanding this threat and implementing proactive measures, you can protect your properties and maintain a safe environment for your tenants.

Where does the term "phrogging" come from?

The term "phrogging" is a combination of two other words: "frogging" and "phreaking".

  1. "Frogging" refers to the act of moving from place to place, essentially hopping around like a frog. Similarly, phroggers secretly move into various homes or properties.
  2. "Phreaking" is a hacker term that originates from exploring and exploiting telephone systems and communication networks without permission.

This phrase captures the idea of illicitly occupying spaces and the hacker-like mentality of exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to a home and stay hidden in the process.

This practice poses significant legal and ethical issues, such as trespassing and invasion of privacy. It can also lead to theft or property damage. Furthermore, homeowners and landlords might not notice a phrogger for years, which is a major security risk.

What is the difference between phrogging and squatting?

Phrogging and squatting are both unauthorized activities that involve occupying someone else's property, but they differ in their methods and intentions.


The trespasser, or trespassers if operating as a couple or family, in this scenario is secretly living in someone else's home or rental property without their knowledge. Phroggers typically hide in seldom-used spaces like attics or basements and try to remain undetected, often moving out before someone finds them. They may rest at night, wait for the resident to head out for work, and only leave the property during the day.


Squatting is when someone deliberately occupies an abandoned or unoccupied space without permission. The squatter does not try to hide their presence.

Squatters can gain legal rights to a property through a process known as adverse possession. This is a legal process that the squatter can choose to pursue. Here's how it typically works:

  • Continuous possession: Squatters must reside on the property for a continuous period without leaving. Local laws dictate the required period of time.
  • Open and notorious: Their occupancy must be visible and obvious, not hidden from the owner or the public.
  • Exclusive possession: Squatters must possess the property alone, not sharing it with the legal owner or others.
  • Actual possession: They must physically occupy the land, using it as if they were the owner.
  • Without permission: The occupation of the property must be without the legal owner's consent.

Detecting phroggers

Landlords can take several steps to determine whether there are phroggers in their rental properties:

  • Regular inspections: Conduct periodic, scheduled inspections of the property and be sure to check rarely used spaces like attics, basements, and storage rooms.
  • Neighborhood watch: Encourage neighbors to be interested in unusual activity and report any suspicious behavior that could pose a threat to the neighborhood and your property. Ask them to be on the lookout for unknown individuals entering the property at odd hours.
  • Utility checks: Monitor utility bills for unusual increases in usage, which could indicate the presence of someone secretly living on your property.
  • Tenant communication: Maintain open lines of communication with tenants, since they're spending their day-to-day life at the house, thus making them the most likely to spot anything unusual. Encourage them to report any signs of break-ins or the presence of strangers at the house.

Strategies to increase property security

To prevent intruders from secretly living in your rental properties, landlords can implement several strategies:

  • Install security systems: Equipping your property with a security system that includes motion detectors can help increase security. These systems can alert you to any unauthorized movement on the property, capture videos, and detect the presence of people hiding on your property early on.
  • Adequate exterior lighting: Well-lit exteriors can deter unauthorized individuals from attempting to enter your property. Consider installing motion-activated lights around entry points and areas with low visibility to enhance security during the night.
  • Regularly update locks and secure entry points: Change locks between tenancies. Verify that all windows, doors, and other potential entry points are secure. This can prevent former tenants or their friends from gaining unauthorized access.

What to do if you have phroggers on your property

If you suspect or discover unauthorized individuals living on your property, it's key to act calmly and legally.

Verify their presence

The first step is to verify the presence of unauthorized occupants. This can involve confirming signs of habitation in unusual areas, such as attics or basements, and checking for disturbed personal belongings or unauthorized entry points.

Once confirmed, document everything. Take photographs, note dates, and detail any direct encounters or evidence found. This documentation can help with legal actions and dealing with law enforcement.

Legal consultation

Before taking any direct action against the intruders, consult with an attorney familiar with local tenant laws and property rights, as the process for removing an unauthorized man or woman can vary significantly by location.

If you take the wrong steps, you might inadvertently grant phroggers rights or face legal repurcussions. Your attorney can advise on the best course of action, which might include official eviction notices or court orders, depending on the local legal framework.

Law enforcement involvement

Unauthorized occupancy doesn't fall under federal laws or the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ); it falls under the jurisdiction of your local laws and regulations. Keep in mind that contacting law enforcement about suspected trespassers should be done based on the advice of your legal counsel.

Law enforcement's response can vary, and in some jurisdictions, the police may treat the situation as a civil matter, requiring a court order before taking action.

Recognizing and avoiding phrogging cases

This practice presents a unique and unsettling threat to landlords and property owners. While uncommon, the potential for undiscovered trespassers secretly inhabiting your properties is a risk you can't ignore.

Implementing strong security measures, conducting regular inspections, and developing open communication with tenants are crucial steps to safeguard your investments. Stay vigilant, follow legal protocols if you discover phroggers, and prioritize the safety of your tenants throughout the process. By being proactive and informed, you can reduce the chances of falling victim to this intrusive practice and maintain control over your rental properties.

Phrogging: What is it? FAQs

Where is phrogging most common?

Phrogging typically happens in residential areas, particularly in larger homes with multiple unused spaces, such as attics or basements, where phroggers can sometimes hide for years without being discovered. It can also occur in a place like commercial properties or buildings under construction, where there are ample hiding spots and less frequent monitoring.

Does phrogging happen often?

Phrogging is relatively rare but has garnered attention through social media and news reports. While not a widespread phenomenon, instances do occur, making it a concern for homeowners and landlords to be aware of the potential for such situations.

Is phrogging a crime?

Yes, phrogging is a crime. It involves trespassing, living on someone’s property without permission, and often includes other illegal activities such as theft or vandalism. It violates the rights of property owners and can lead to legal consequences for those caught engaging in it.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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