- Definition of Squatters. They are people who stay in another person’s property without permission (read more).
- Squatters vs. Tenant. Some squatters claim that they are tenants to be able to remain in the property (read more).
- Adverse possession. Under certain circumstances (varies by state), squatters can become owners (read more).
- Required Period of Possession. This period varies from state to state and can be shortened by color title and payment of taxes in some states (read more).
- Removal. The process for removing squatters has its own rules on what a property owner can (and can’t) do, which can differ from the traditional eviction process (read more).
Squatter’s Rights by State
Defining a Squatter
A squatter is someone who is occupying the property of another person without authority or permission with the intention of staying or living there. The intention to remain in the dwelling is essential.
Squatters vs. Trespassers
The term trespasser is a very general term. It refers to someone who knowingly enters into another person’s property without permission. To get rid of a trespasser, the owner simply needs to call the police and have them remove the trespasser. That’s because trespassing is a crime. A trespasser is NOT someone:
- Whose lease has lapsed;
- Who stopped paying rent;
- Who breaches the lease in any way.
A squatter, on the other hand, is someone who is occupying another person’s property with the intention to stay or live there. In this sense, some trespassers can be squatters, but not all squatters are trespassers. Some squatters don’t know they are not allowed to stay there. Also, some squatters had permission to enter or even stay in the property at some point, like a tenant who refuses to move out despite being evicted.
If a squatter is a mere trespasser, then they can be removed from the dwelling by simply reporting a trespass. The police officer will then proceed to remove the trespasser from the premises. The problem is when squatters are able to give the appearance that they are tenants (read more). That’s when the problem becomes a civil matter rather than a criminal one. This means, the question of whether or not this person is a trespasser or tenant will need to be determined in court.
The police officer does have the power to make that determination. Neither is it up to the landlord. The question has to be presented to a court for determination. Unfortunately, that means that landlords cannot kick out the squatter until that determination is made.
Squatters vs. Holdover Tenants
A holdover tenant is a previous tenant whose lease or tenancy has ended but stays in the property. Whether this person is a squatter or not depends on the landlord’s actions. If the landlord tolerates the tenant’s staying or does not tell the tenant to leave then the holdover tenant retains the right to remain in the premises. In some states, the law actually converts the tenancy into a tenancy at will or provides that lease renews month-to-month or week-to-week.
If the landlord does not tolerate the tenant’s extended stay and asks the tenants to leave, then the holdover tenant is technically a squatter, as that tenant remains in the property without the permission of the owner.
Squatter vs. Tenant
This distinction is important because tenants have rights, which squatters do not. The most useful of which: landlords cannot simply end the tenancy. They have to respect the term, provide required notices and comply with notice periods. Only after the tenant’s noncompliance with a legitimate request to vacate the premises can the landlord file an action for possession. On the other hand, with a squatter, the landlord can go directly to filing an unlawful detainer case.
A tenant is someone who stays on the premises under a lease or legal tenancy. This can be verbal, written, or sometimes even just assumed by law. The simplest form of a lease is when the landlord allows the tenant to stay in the property in exchange for rent paid in money. There are some cases, however, when the lease agreement is less obvious. Some tenancies are paid in services or in exchange for maintaining the property. On top of that, some tenancies are not written.
When a tenancy is very informal, it becomes hard to determine the true nature of the contract. Whether the person staying in the unit is a tenant or someone the owner just allows to stay there. Sometimes landlords don’t even know that they’ve agreed to something that courts may later consider a lease. That is how some squatters ultimately end up being considered as tenants.
Paying Rent: The Squatter Way
Conventionally, rent payment is made in cash (i.e., a predetermined amount listed in a lease). However, a tenant can pay rent through labor. This is why some squatters make the argument that the upkeep and maintenance of the premises were services rendered as payment of rent, which is how they support their claim that they are in fact tenants. In some instances, this may be true and some squatters have in fact won themselves tenancy status in this way. It’s similar to the case of a house sitter who does not get paid but lives in the house or in some part of it and takes care of it.
Other Ways Squatters Create the Appearance of Tenancy
To upgrade their status from being mere trespassers who can easily be removed from the property, squatters must present a somewhat arguable case that they are tenants. That’s when the question goes from whether someone is trespassing and becomes about whether someone has some right to possession of the property. Of course, in most cases, this is blatantly false and the squatters know it. In fact, this is usually the finding.
Below are some of the ways squatters make themselves look like they are actual tenants:
- Preparing forged or fake documents to show ownership or tenancy
- Putting or transferring utilities in their own names to make it seem that they are legally staying in the place
- Repairing and maintaining the premises to later claim that these services were given as rent
- Furnishing the unit to create the appearance of regular occupancy
Adverse possession is one way to acquire real property. To be able to do this, the possessor must be in adverse possession for the required period of time. It’s often referred to as “Squatter’s Rights” because it’s how a squatter can get ownership over another person’s land without actually having to pay for it. It’s a bit of a misnomer because the acquisition is not actually based on the squatter’s right but more so on the loss of the owner’s right to contest the squatter’s claim.
Elements of Adverse Possession
Note, however, establishing ownership through adverse possession is no easy feat. The squatter or the “adverse possessor” must possess or hold the property in a manner that has all the elements of adverse possession. These elements are actually characteristic of how a true owner holds property. Simply put, The possessor must hold the property as if the possessor is the real owner. The possession must be:
- Actual. They must actually possess the land or property. The claimant must make use of the property as a real owner would. For example, if it is farmland, then they must farm it. If it is a residential lot, then they must build on it. If it is a home, they must actually live in it. If the squatter succeeds in this claim, the squatter will get only the part of the land they actually used unless there is color of title.
- Exclusive. The possession must be exclusive in the sense that the possessor defends his rights like an owner would. This includes excluding trespassers from the property and opposing any claims of ownership or other rights over it. Examples of what the possessor can do are putting up fences, installing locks, kicking out trespassers and defending the possessor’s title as owner.
- Hostile. This requirement is vis-a-vis the true owner’s rights. It does not require any sort of confrontation or violence. It simply requires that the possession must be hostile to that of the true owner and incompatible to it. The possessor must not be holding the property under a right granted or that stems from the true owner like a guest or a tenant.
- Open and notorious. The possessor must be possessing the property publicly and not in secret. It does not have to be ostentatious, they do not have to put up signs or publish anything to show their ownership. Possessors must simply occupy the property in a way that the real owner or the public can reasonably notice.
- Continuous. The actual, exclusive, hostile, open and notorious possession must be continuous and uninterrupted. When the possession is interrupted. Every time the possession is interrupted, the period of possession goes back to zero. However, there is such a thing called “tacking” of possession. One possessor or squatter can tack his period of possession to the next possessor if the transfer between the two is voluntary and their claims are not in conflict each other’s. For example, one possessor can assign his rights to the land to another through a sale or via inheritance.
Length of Continuous Occupation
Squatter’s rights vary state-by-state. The required period of adverse possession differs from one state to another. Below is a table of the required period of possession. Some of them have a range of period as some states shorten the required period if the possessor has color of title. Also, some states provide a different period for adverse possessors who pay taxes on the property.
|State||Required Occupation Time|
|New Hampshire||20 years|
|New Jersey||30 years|
|New Mexico||10 years|
|New York||10 years|
|North Carolina||20 years|
|North Dakota||10-20 years|
|Rhode Island||21 years|
|South Carolina||10 years|
|South Dakota||10-20 years|
|West Virginia||10 years|
Color of Title
“Color of title” is a title to the property that seems valid but technically isn’t.
When the title, in the course of passing from one hand to another, goes through the whole chain of title but misses an important element or step, the receiver only gets a color of title rather than the actual title. The holder of a color of title may be holding a deed of sale, a title document, a transfer or some other document that says that the holder is the owner of the property, but that document is defective. Check out our in-depth discussion of color of title for more information.
Some states require color of title in for Adverse possession but most don’t. There are, however, states that have a shorter period for those who have color of title than for those who don’t.
Some states require a squatter to pay taxes on the property to gain rights. In some states, like Washington, the squatter must pay taxes for the last seven years to gain possession of the property.
Since state lies are highly variable, click here to learn about a specific state’s laws.
Adverse Possession by State
For a squatter to take possession of your property in Alabama, they have to have possession of a deed to the property or pay the taxes on the property for 10 years. This rule comes from Title 6 Chapter 5 Section 200 of the Code of Alabama.
In Alaska, there are two ways that a squatter can gain adverse possession. If your squatter has the deed to the property, they need to live in the property for seven years to take adverse possession of it, according to Alaska Statute 09.45.052. According to Alaska Statute 09.10.030, a squatter can also take ownership of your property if they’ve paid taxes on the land for the past 10 years.
There are three timelines for a squatter to gain ownership of your property through adverse possession.
A squatter that has the deed and has paid the taxes on your property for three or more years can take adverse possession of it, according to Arizona Revised Statute Title 12 Chapter 5 Article 2 Section 3. Unless the property is a city lot. If that is the case, the squatter needs to have the deed and pay the taxes for five years, according to Arizona Revised Statute Title 12 Chapter 5 Article 2 Section 4.
A squatter that holds the deed to your property for five years can take possession of the unit, according to Arizona Revised Statute Title 12 Chapter 5 Article 2 Section 5.
There’s a third type of adverse possession that involves property lines. This would come into play if someone on a neighboring property built something across your line of the property. After ten years, that part of the property would belong to your neighbor instead of you, according to Arizona Revised Statute Title 12 Chapter 5 Article 2 Section 2.
In Arkansas, a squatter gains adverse possession of a property if they’ve held the deed to the property and paid the taxes o it for seven years, according to Arkansas Code Annotated 18-11-102.
A squatter must file for adverse possession within seven years of earning the right to unless that person is a minor. Then, they must do so within three years of turning 21, according to Arkansas Code Annotated 18-61-101.
More so, if a squatter has lived on your land for three or more years without interruption from you, then you don’t have the right to claim forcible entry or unlawful detainer, according to Arkansas Code Annotated 18-61-104.
In California, a squatter needs to pay the taxes on your property for five years to gain adverse possession, according to California Civil Procedure Code 325.
In Colorado, it takes 18 years for a squatter to take adverse possession of your property if they have the deed, according to Colorado Revised Statute 38-41-101.
When a squatter has paid taxes on your property for seven years they can gain adverse possession, according to Colorado Revised Statute 38-41-108.
If you haven’t visited your property in Connecticut within 15 years, it could be at risk for adverse possession, according to Connecticut General Statute Annotated 52-575. Squatters who have been living there for 15 years can claim adverse possession.
Adverse Possession in Delaware
In Delaware, it takes 20 years for a squatter to earn the right to claim adverse possession on your property, according to Delaware Code Annotated Title 10 – 7901.
Squatters in Florida need to pay taxes on your property for seven years before they can claim adverse possession of your property, according to Florida State Annotated Statute Chapter 95.
A squatter can also gain adverse possession by possessing the deed to the property for seven years.
Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 44-5-160), squatters have the right to take possession of the property if they have resided in the property for seven years or more. In terms of undeveloped land, it must be occupied in some fashion without permission for a minimum of 20 years.
Under Hawaii law (Hawaii Revised Statutes 657-31.5, et seq.), an individual must occupy a property for at least 20 years before the possibility of ownership.
According to Idaho Code Ann. § § 5-206 and following, squatters in Idaho may make an oral claim for possession, but only when the squatters have been paying the property taxes on a parcel of land for a minimum of 20 years.
Squatters may prove this by 1. creating a substantial enclosure on the property to help protect it, or 2. to cultivate or improve the property as any other property owner would do.
Illinois does not have a unique set of terms for adverse possession that differs from those outlined by federal law. In general, according to 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § § 5/13-105,107, 109,
1. Squatters must openly occupy a property without permission for a minimum of 20 years to be given the chance to transfer the deed.
2. Out of those 20 years, they must pay for 7 years of the property taxes. They must also be operating under the Color of Title for a minimum of 7 years.
- A “hostile” claim: you must either
- make an honest mistake (likes relying on an incorrect deed);
- merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that it is private property); or
- be aware of your trespassing;
- Actual possession: you must be physically present on the land, treating it as your own;
- Open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
- Exclusive and continuous possession: you cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time.
In general, Iowa follows what is known as the “good faith” rules when it comes to adverse possession. According to Iowa Code Ann. § 614.17A, adverse possession happens when the following is true:
- The actions of squatters are hostile in nature
- There is a minimum 5 years of open and notorious possession
Keep in mind that since 1980, Iowa has allowed for adverse possession claims to be filed within 12 months, when certain conditions are met. Those conditions include payment of property taxes and operation under the color of title during the entire length of the residence. If these conditions are not met, then the 5-year statutes will be enforced. Also, if a property owner can prove that a disability prevented them from understanding that an adverse possession claim was being filed, they have up to 1 year after the disability has been lifted to challenge the claim.
Property owners may also file a notice in writing to prevent acquisition. The notice should indicate their intent to keep their property and that it hasn’t been abandoned. A copy should also be provided to the squatter. Many states require that the occupation of a property by squatters be without permission for an adverse claim to qualify for a hearing. However, Iowa does not necessarily require this.
According to Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-503, Kansas law requires you to be in actual possession of the property for at least 15 years continuously. If a person is considered to have a legal disability, such as being under 18 years old, incapacitated (such as in a coma or confined to a mental hospital), or is incarcerated for less than his or her natural life, then the person can bring an action to recover their property within two years after the disability is removed. However, keep in mind that the maximum amount of time a real property action such as adverse possession can be waylaid is 23 years. Kansas law encourages landowners to allow people to enter their land for recreational purposes, such as hunting or fishing, swimming or water skiing, camping, hiking, winter sports, non-commercial aviation, and historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites.
With that said, entering land for these purposes does not create an easement by adverse possession, for example if used on occasion for over 15 years.
In Kentucky, according to Ky. Rev. Stat. § § 413.010, 413.060, adverse possession happens when:
- There is a “hostile claim”
- There must be actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
- There must be open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
- There must be exclusive and continuous possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time.
Kentucky’s laws also require squatters to occupy on the premises for 15 years and establish Color of Title for 7 years. If the property owner has a disability preventing them from understanding the adverse possession claim, then they have 3 years to challenge it after the disability is lifted.
Louisiana requires squatters to meet all common law requirements of adverse possession in order to have a claim to a property title, according to La. Civ. Code art. 3475, 3486. Squatters must have continuous possession of the property for 10 years. In addition, squatters cannot disturb the peace in any way when attempting an adverse possession claim. There must also be a “good faith” element as well as a “just title” element. Louisiana requires squatters to maintain a property as if it was their own. Keep in mind as well that Louisiana does not have any disability allowances.
According to Tit. 14 §§801, et seq, squatters’ adverse possession in Maine must be:
- Open and notorious;
- Adverse or hostile or by claim of right;
- Continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period (20 years required for occupation of premises and color of title/payment of taxes)
In terms of disabilities, property owners have 10 years (notwithstanding 20 yrs. have expired) to challenge the adverse possession claim after the disability has been lifted.
According to Md. Ann. Code [Cts. & Jud. Proc.] § 5-103, in Maryland, the general legal requirements for adverse possession apply, including continuous possession for 20 years. To get rid of squatters, a property owner must make a “wrongful detainer” complaint through their District Court. A summons will be consequently issued to the person accused of squatting. From there, a date will be given for the individual(s) to appear in court. The judge will either rule in favor of the property owner or the squatter. In addition, squatters in Maryland have the ability to appeal a decision made against them, as do property owners. Keep in mind that the appeal must happen within 10 days of the ruling in District Court.
According to Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 21″, the general requirements for adverse possession apply, and in order to have a case for adverse possession in Massachusetts, the possession must be open, actual, notorious, exclusive and ongoing for 20 years. Claims of adverse possession cannot be made on land held for conservation, parks, recreation, water protection or wildlife protection purposes.
According to Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 600.5801, in Michigan, squatters must have open and obvious possession of the property for a statutory period of 15 years. After the statutory period ends, the record owner’s title is extinguished and the adverse possessor acquires legal title to the property. However, this title is neither record title nor marketable title until the squatter files a lawsuit and obtains a judicial decree. Property owners have the ability change the locks and remove the squatter’s possessions if the squatter took possession by means of a forcible entry, holds possession by force, or came into possession by trespass without color of title. In this case, the property owner may also enter the property without the squatter’s permission. Unlawful occupation is also a criminal offense.
In Minnesota, based on section 541.02 of the 2014 Minnesota statutes, no landowner can take legal action to recover possession of a property unless they (or their predecessors) have had continuous possession of that real estate within the past 15 years. The general requirements for adverse possession apply: open, actual, obvious, exclusive, and continuous possession.
According to Miss. Code Ann. § § 15-1-7, 15-1-13, squatters in Mississippi must use the abandoned property in question in an uninterrupted fashion for a minimum of 10 years. As usual, the squatters must have open, obvious, and exclusive possession of the property. If squatters pass on possession to a new household of squatters, then the statutory time period of 10 years starts over. In other words, if the squatters have resided on the property for 8 years, and new squatters live there for 2 years, the time of possession will only count for the new squatters. This means the new squatters would have to occupy the premises for 8 more years to qualify for adverse possession.
According to, Mo. Stat. Ann. § 516.010 10, squatters must contain continuous possession of the property for a minimum of 10 years. To claim adverse possession, squatters must fulfill the general legal requirements for squatters:
- Open and notorious use
- Exclusive and actual use
- Adverse/hostile use
In Montana, as outlined in Mont. Code Ann. § 70-19-411, all of the general law requirements for adverse possession apply. However, there is a shorter statutory period in Montana; squatters must maintain continuous possession of the property for a minimum of 5 years.
According to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-202, Nebraska requires squatters to have continuous, open and notorious possession of the property for 10 years. All of the general legal requirements for adverse possession apply. In terms of disabilities, property owners have 10 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the adverse possession claim.
In Nevada, according to Nev. Rev. Stat. § § 11.070, 11.110, 11.150, 40.090, the general legal requirements for adverse possession apply. Squatters may not make a claim until they have resided on the premises for a minimum of 5 years.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508:2 states that squatters in New Hampshire need to maintain continuous possession of the property for at least 20 years. Property owners with disabilities may challenge the claim 5 years after the disability has been lifted. All of the general legal terms for squatters in the U.S. apply.
In New Jersey, the statutory period for adverse possession is a little longer than in other states. According to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:14-30, squatters must occupy the property for 30 years before making a claim of adverse possession. There is also a specification for woodlands; squatters on this kind of land must occupy it for 60 years. The occupation duration requirement for color of title is 30 years and for payment of taxes is 5 years. Property owners with disabilities have 5 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the adverse possession claim.
According to N.M. Stat. Ann. § 37-1-22, squatters in New Mexico must occupy the property for 10 years and color of title/payment of taxes for 10 years. Landowners with disabilities have 5 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the adverse possession claim. There must be a hostile claim, as well open, actual, notorious, exclusive and continuous possession.
According to New York Real Prop. Acts. Law § 501, 511, in New York, squatters must live on the property openly and without permission of the owner for a period of at least 10 uninterrupted years to be able to claim adverse possession. In NYC, a previous tenant can gain squatter’s rights just 30 days after their lease term has ended. All of the general legal requirements for adverse possession in the U.S. apply.
According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 1-38, 1-40, squatters must have continuous possession of the property for 20 years. If there is a color of title claim involved, which means the squatters have some justifiable reason to believe they own the property, but do not, then the time requirement reduces to 7 years. Remember to refer to the general legal requirements for adverse possession.
In North Dakota, according to N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § § 28-01-04 and following, 47-06-03, squatters must occupy the property for 20 years before claiming adverse possession. The requirement for color of title/payment of taxes is 10 years. Landowners with disabilities have 10 years to challenge the claim. Refer to the general specifications for adverse possession in the U.S.
In Ohio, as outlined in, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.04, squatter must live on a property for 21 years without permission, openly and obviously, to make an adverse possession claim. Property owners with disabilities have 10 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the claim. Make sure to identify the general required elements of adverse possession in the U.S.
According to Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 93, all of the general legal requirements for adverse possession apply in the state of Oklahoma. A squatter must occupy the property for 15 years to claim adverse possession. Property owners have 2 years after a disability is lifted to challenge the adverse possession claim. 5 years of occupation are required for color of title.
According to Or. Rev. Stat. § § 12.050, 105.620, squatters in Oregon must occupy a property for 10 years before making an adverse possession claim. In general, property owners have 10 years after a disability is lifted to challenge the claim. In terms of a mental disability, the 10 year period is extended for the duration of a person’s disability. This individual has 1 year after their disability is lifted to challenge the adverse claim. In terms of an age disability, if a property owner is under 18, they have 1 or 5 years after turning 18 to challenge the claim. Remember to refer to the general requirements for adverse possession in the U.S.
In Pennsylvania, according to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5530, all of the general legal requirements for adverse possession apply. The statutory period of occupation is 21 years.
Rhode Island law (R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 34-7-1) outlines all of the general requirements for adverse possession in the U.S. The statutory period of occupation for squatters is 10 years. For a disability, property owners have 10 years after the disability is lifted to challenge the claim.
According to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-67-210, squatters in South Carolina must meet all the requirements for adverse possession and occupy the property for a statutory period of 10 years. The same goes for color of title. In South Carolina there are no time exceptions for landowners with disabilities. Instead, South Carolina courts must review the claim and refer to common law/past cases and determine an outcome.
In South Dakota, as outlined in S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § § 15-3-1, 15-3-15, a squatter must meet the general requirements for adverse possession and occupy the premises for 20 years to claim adverse possession/color of title. For payment of taxes, the requirement is 10 years. A landowner has 10 years to challenge the claim; if the property owner has a disability, they have 20 years to challenge it, and 10 years after the disability has been lifted.
As outlined in Tenn. Code Ann. § § 28-2-101 to 28-2-103, squatters in Tennessee must fulfill the general adverse possession requirements and occupy the property for a minimum of 7 years with color of title and 20 years without color of title. Property owners have 3 years after a disability has been lifted to challenge the claim.
In Texas, according to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.021 and following, all of the requirements of adverse possession must be met for a continuous period of 30 years for a squatter to claim adverse possession.
As outlined in Utah Code Ann. § § 78B-2-208 to 78B-2-214, all of the general adverse possession requirements apply. The statutory period of occupation is only 7 years in Utah. Aside from continuous, open and notorious use, a squatter in Utah may also claim adverse possession if there was an error in the legal description of the property when it was obtained.
Adverse Possession in Vermont
As explicated in Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 501, sq, squatters in Vermont must fulfill all of the general requirements for adverse possession and reside on the property for a minimum of 15 years.
In Virginia, as outlined in Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-236, a squatter must maintain the requirements for adverse possession for a minimum of 15 years before making a claim. If the property owner has a disability, the statutory period extends to 25 years; the landowner must have the disability for the entire duration of this period.
As defined in, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 4.16.020, 7.28.050, squatters in Washington state must occupy the residence for 7 years for to claim adverse possession; the same goes for color of title and payment of taxes. If the property owner has a disability, they have 3 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the claim. All of the general prerequisites for adverse possession apply.
In West Virginia, as outlined in W. Va. Code § 55-2-1, the adverse possession requirements must be met to make a claim. The statutory period of occupation for squatters is 10 years. Property owners with disabilities have 5 years after the disability has been lifted to challenge the claim.
In Wisconsin, according to Wis. Stat. Ann. § § 893.25 to 893.27, a squatter must possess the property in a way that is hostile, exclusive, open, notorious, continuous and uninterrupted for at least 20 years to claim adverse possession.
As outlined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-3-103, squatters must fulfill and maintain the requirements for adverse possession for a minimum of 10 years. For property owners with disabilities, 10 years are allotted after the disability has been lifted to challenge the claim.
Removing a Squatter
The law provides remedies for owners of properties that are being occupied illegally. Since the term “squatter ” is not an actual legal term, the manner in which they can be removed from the property may not always be obvious. Fortunately, the owner does not lose the right to use othe remedies by choosing one remedy, which is why it’s always best to start with the easiest. If it works, then the problem is solved. If it doesn’t, the owner can simply move on to the next one. Below are the remedies that are generally available to owners:
- Calling the police. This is the first and simplest step. If the person is a mere trespasser, the police will be able to remove them for the premises and that will be the end of it.
- Filing an action for possession or unlawful detainer. If the tenant is a squatter, this should be a quick process. These actions are summary proceedings, which means they go faster than regular civil cases. Note, however, that the only question here is whether the “squatter” is entitled to possession or not – the landlord only needs to show that there is no lease, or that the lease has expired, which should be enough to show that the squatter has no right to stay there. These will work for squatters who are claiming to be tenants, and holdover tenants who refuse to leave.
- Going through the eviction process. This step requires terminating the occupant’s rights, asking them to leave and filing an action in court if they refuse. This is how a landlord can remove a tenant from the premises. The owner can also go through this route if they tried filing an action as in the previous paragraph but the squatter was found to be a tenant. This takes longer as the landlord or owner will need to provide notice, comply with the notice requirements and file an action in court.
- Filing an action to quiet title. This is the last resort. This is to stop a squatter from establishing ownership over the land. This is a long drawn civil case that determines title to the land by removing doubtful claims to it. Squatters posing as tenants can never claim that they own the property because any right the tenant has to it comes from the landlord’s title. However, if the squatter is asserting ownership of the property under some color of title, this is the way to go.
Overall, the process for removal varies greatly by state. Check your state’s laws to learn more.
Protecting Against Squatters
The best protection against squatters, trespassers, and adverse possession is to be vigilant of your property. If your property is vacant and in a different state and you can’t take frequent trips to check on the place, you may want to hire a property management company to look after it for you.
Additionally, you can post no trespassing signs on your property or install an alarm. A squatter cannot claim possession of your property if they were not able to make it their own. The best way to prevent that is to keep them out altogether.
Once squatters have entered your property, the best course of action is to call the police. While squatters have ways to make the police go away, it still might work. Additionally, it will give you a beginning layer of evidence to use against the squatter in court.