Squatter’s Rights: Laws and Guide for all 50 States

Imagine having someone live on your land without your knowledge or permission and refuse to leave, or even worse, claim ownership of it. This situation sounds like the ultimate landowner’s nightmare but is actually a very common reality. It is also legal in some cases, as you will see in this review of Squatter’s Rights: by State.

What Is a Squatter?

A squatter, also called an unauthorized tenant or adverse possessor, is a person who inhabits a premises without the permission or knowledge of the premises owner. Simply put, it is anyone who takes up residence on land they don’t pay rent for or own. Despite the lack of a legal right to be on the premises, it is not easy to remove an adverse possessor.

Like a tenant, squatters have the right to be evicted through the legal process, which must be done within a statutory period.  If a landlord fails to evict a squatter past this time limit, the squatter can claim adverse possession, which could grant them ownership of the premises if successful.

What Are Squatters’ Rights?

Squatters’ rights are also referred to as adverse possession laws. They are legal provisions that allow an unauthorized tenant to maintain their residency on a property legally if the premises owner fails to evict them within the statutory period.

Why Do Squatters Have Rights?

Squatters, like tenants, have rights so as to maintain a peaceful society and eliminate any grounds for vigilante justice. It prevents landowners from taking matters into their own hands and using violence to remove them from a premises. If this was legal to do, situations could easily get out of hand and become dangerous.

Commonly Used Terms

Adverse Possession: This is a claim pursued by a squatter to obtain ownership of a premises by establishing that they have resided on the premises for a statutory period.

Unknown Persons: When a landowner discovers an unwanted person on their land, they can make them a tenant at will who must be given a 30-day notice to quit.

Holdover Tenants: This is a tenant who remains on a premises after their lease has ended. A landlord can issue a holdover tenant a notice to quit then institute legal action against them if they don’t.

Squatters’ Rights in the United States

The following list outlines squatters’ rights in the United States by state. The sections in each line represent the STATE NAME, followed by the ADVERSE POSSESSION requirements, and the type of notice required for HOLDOVER TENANTS, and UNKNOWN PERSONS.


Squatting sounds like an impossible and illegal situation, but it actually happens more than you think. If you own land or premises, you should familiarize yourself with these Squatter’s Rights: by State and all processes relating to squatters, so you can protect yourself.