Squatting refers to when someone resides on a vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed property without informing the property owner. Although this sounds like it should be illegal, it is actually very common and sometimes legal. In Indiana, common law ownership requirements govern how and when squatting can happen within the State. To help you understand this concept (as well as how to protect your land from it), this article answers the question: What Are Squatters Rights in Indiana?
Quick Facts About Squatters in Indiana
- Occupation period: Minimum of 10 years
- Color of title: Not a requirement
- Property taxes: Must be paid for the occupation period
- Getting rid of a squatter: Eviction
Who Is Considered a Squatter in Indiana?
A squatter is a person who takes up residence on an unoccupied, foreclosed, or abandoned property or piece of land without the knowledge or permission of the landlord. Simply put, it is someone who lives on a property when they don’t own or pay rent for it. Despite this definition, squatting is legal in the United States and is very common.
How Can a Squatter Occupy Property in Indiana?
State laws, including those in Indiana, allow a squatter to occupy a property in a hostile and adverse manner when the property in question has been abandoned or neglected. By the same provision, squatting cannot qualify as adverse possession of the property is not abandoned.
Do Property Taxes Have to Be Paid?
Yes. In Indiana, a squatter must pay property taxes for the land they occupy for the 10-year occupation period to qualify for an adverse possession claim. State courts affirm that this provision is designed to allow property owners the opportunity to receive notice that someone is occupying their land. However, this system is not as effective as it is assumed to be because property owners can only find out about their taxation status by checking. There are no notifications from the State.
What Does Continuous Use Mean?
Continuous use is a commonly used term in squatting laws. It refers to the consistent maintenance and improvement of a property by a squatter and is a requirement for an adverse possession claim. If a squatter only regularly visits a property, it is not considered occupied as they must be using or maintaining the residence as the owner would.
For example, if the abandoned property is a house, it is only occupied when the squatter makes it their primary residence.
Can Squatters Share the Possession?
Besides being continuous, the occupation of a neglected area of land or property must be exclusive to qualify for an adverse possession claim. A squatter cannot share possession of the premises with anyone outside their household during the occupation period.
Understanding Adverse Possession in Indiana
As per IN Code 32-21-7-1, et seq, a squatter can make an adverse possession claim in Indiana if they can establish exclusive and continuous possession of a property for 10 years. The claim, if successful, can transfer legal ownership of a property from the owner to the squatter. When this happens, the squatter is no longer considered a criminal trespasser but can reside on the property lawfully.
A squatter can qualify to file an adverse possession claim if their occupation of the land is:
- Open and notorious
These legal requirements must be met; else, the occupation cannot qualify for adverse possession.
How to Get Rid of Squatters in Indiana
Currently, no legal provisions in Indiana are dedicated to the removal of squatters from a property. However, a disability law allows a landowner 2 years after a disability they have is lifted to regain possession of their property, even after the possession period is over.
The disability can be imprisonment, legal incompetence, or the owner being a minor. As such, the disability is lifted when the owner is released, regains competency, or comes of age. When this happens, or the property owner decides to remove a squatter, they must first send one of these eviction notices:
- Cure or Quit Notice – Describes a violation and gives the squatter a chance to remedy it or move out.
- 10-Day Pay or Quit Notice – Prescribes an amount the squatter must pay or else move out within 10 days (not counting holidays and weekends).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit – Sent when the squatter destroys the property to notify them to move out immediately.
Note: If the squatter fails to comply with the eviction notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. This process can last some weeks if the squatter fights the lawsuit. In most cases, the judge will rule in the landlord’s favor, allowing them to regain possession of their land.
This can only happen through law enforcement as a landowner cannot physically remove a squatter (or tenant) from their property.
Note: A landowner requires a separate court order to remove any personal belongings a squatter leaves behind. They must send the squatter a notice, after which they can hand over the belongings to a warehouse worker. In turn, the warehouseman must give the squatter 90 days to get the property, and if they don’t, they can sell it.
Tips for Protecting Yourself in Indiana
Getting rid of a squatter is much more complicated than ensuring they don’t access your property in the first place. You can do the latter by:
- Checking on your property regularly.
- Posting ‘no trespassing signs on your unoccupied property.
- Securing your property by closing windows, locking doors, and barring all entrances.
- Paying your property taxes.
If you notice squatting on your property, address it immediately by sending the squatters a notice. You can also contact the sheriff to remove the squatters if they won’t leave and acquire the services of a lawyer. If you are comfortable with it, you can also offer to rent the property to the squatters.
What Are Squatters Rights in Indiana? Indiana passed a bill in 1927 that requires squatters to pay property taxes, bills, and fees during the occupation. To make a claim on your title, a squatter must have paid the taxes and maintained continuous and notorious occupation of your property for at least 10 years. This applies when the squatter began adverse possession after 1982. If they cannot establish this, then you can keep your land under Indiana Code Title 32. Property § 32-21-1-1.