Squatters’ Rights Defense
Also known as adverse possession, squatters’ rights offer protection to people who peacefully and openly occupy property that does not belong to them. These protections range from the right to notice before eviction to gaining permanent possession of the land.
What Is a Squatter?
A squatter is an individual who occupies and has the intention to remain on the property of another person without their permission to stay or live there. A squatter might also simply use the land or piece of property without paying for it. They have no lawful documentation stating that they are a law-abiding tenant and have been given permission to use or access the property.
By understanding how squatters’ rights works, a squatter might even gain ownership of the property they’re living on. However, an important limitation to be aware of is that you cannot seek adverse possession rights for government-owned land.
What Are Squatters’ Rights?
Squatters’ rights are also known as adverse possession rights. This includes the set of laws that allow a squatter to legally use or live on real estate without the owner’s explicit permission. One of the main provisions is that tenants cannot be removed from the property without fair notice. In fact, in many parts of the country, squatters receive rights similar to formal renters who simply failed to pay rent.
Courts use squatters’ rights laws to resolve a variety of property disputes. This includes, a trespasser who’s been living on someone else’s property without permission or a neighbor who’s built a fence over their neighbor’s property line and has been using that piece of real estate as their own.
What Legal Requirements Should You Fulfill To Take Over Real Estate?
Continuously occupying the property grants a tenant adverse possession or squatters’ rights. To have a solid case, these are several requirements you must fulfill when seeking adverse possession. It’s important to note that requirement specifics will vary state by state. Work with one of our experienced adverse possession attorneys today. Make sure your case is handled properly.
However, there are four core elements courts will always look at to evaluate whether you can legally claim rights to someone else’s property:
- Exclusive and continuous possession: You must have occupied the land exclusively and not shared it with the actual owner or the public. You must have also occupied the land for a continuous period of time.
- Open and notorious possession: You must have occupied the property in a manner that is obvious, not secretively, or with the intention to remain undetected. Not required is a landowner’s knowledge of your occupation.
- Hostile possession: Your occupation of the property must be adverse to the interests of the actual owner. So, if the owner has given you permission to use the property, then your presence is not hostile. Relying on incorrect deed information is one instance where this could happen.
- Statutory period: You must fulfill the state-determined statutory period to apply for adverse possession. This is the required number of years you must have occupied the property, which varies by state.
What Are the Term Lengths People Must Occupy Land Continuously for To Gain Squatters’ Rights?
Squatters’ rights exist in all 50 states but each state sets its own requirements. The table below lists state-specific required occupation time for you to qualify for an adverse possession claim.
Required Occupation Time by State *subject to change
30 years or more: Louisiana, New Jersey
20 years or more: Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin
15 years or more: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia
10 years or more: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
5 years or more: Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Tennessee, Utah
How Do I Make a Claim on the Property I Have Occupied?
As illustrated above, how to make a squatters’ rights claim depends on the state you’re in. Generally speaking, you must fulfill all the terms of that specific state to make a claim. Note that there are some states where you must have paid taxes on the land or have access to the deed. Even so, here are some general steps to follow:
- Fulfill State Requirements: To find out if you have rights as a tenant, you must become familiar with your state’s laws. An experienced attorney can review your situation and inform you of what your rights are.
- File a Claim: The processes and fees for filing a claim are generally inexpensive. Before filing, ensure you have met the state’s occupancy requirements. The owner of the property might now receive notice that you live there.
- Await a Response: Sometimes tenants discover that the owner of the property passed away and the new owners do not want to fight over it. Other times, the owners might try to begin eviction proceedings. Some might even request rent.
- Defend Your Home: Your defense depends on the action taken by the owners — if there is any at all. If they take no action, the property might become yours. When they do take action, it becomes a civil suit. Prepare to defend your claim.
An experienced squatters’ rights attorney can guide you on various steps to take before filing a claim to help legitimize your occupancy. This might include making improvements to the land or even transferring existing utilities into your own name wherever applicable. They can then help walk you through the entire filing and defense process to ensure you get to remain in your home and earn the rights free and clear.
Connect With an Experienced Squatters’ Rights Attorney
While some squatters’ rights disputes may be simple to resolve, adverse possession laws are complex and unique to each state. It’s important to hire a skilled attorney to evaluate your specific situation and build a strong case for your rights.
An experienced adverse possession attorney can guide you through the process and ensure your rights are protected. However, it’s important to prepare for a fight if you want to retain ownership of the property.
Are you ready to start? Let us connect you with an adverse possession attorney so you can get the process underway.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!