Which States Have Squatter’s Rights?

You’re a property owner and have a nice, summer home in another state. However, life’s been busy, and you’ve not been there in a few years. When you do get around to visiting your property, you realize you’ve attracted a squatter. If you find yourself shaking in your boots, well, you’re not alone. Squatters are and have been a veritable nightmare for property owners everywhere. This is due to the complex problems squatters present. Squatters are a nuisance. As each state has their own laws regarding squatters, they can be a holy terror to deal with, especially if the squatters are aware of their rights ahead of time and plan on claiming your property as there own.

If all of this sounds like a convoluted ball of tangled string, you’d be right. Fortunately, there are methods to deal with squatters, and we’ll cover some of those methods here. However, realize that these are just generalized suggestions, as you must consult with your own state’s laws concerning squatters. Suffice it to say, that as you deal with squatters, always keep solid records of everything in case you need to take them to court. Take photos, get eyewitness accounts, and call law enforcement, all of which will help you build up evidence against them.

What is a Squatter?

In basic terms, a squatter is an individual who resides on the property of another person. The squatter has no legal rights to the property, nor are they paying rent for it.

What are Squatters Rights?

Squatter rights allow an individual to squat on someone’s property, and are also known as adverse possession. This means that if a squatter resides on someone else’s property, and the owner of the property does not make a move to evict, then the squatter’s stay on the property is considered legal.

The reason for squatters rights is that some states frown upon people leaving their property unused. Even if owned, if the property is ignored, it becomes an eyesore and a danger to the community. In point of fact, some states actually allow the squatter to claim the property as theirs after a certain amount of time. However, keep in mind that squatter rights are not federal laws, they are determined by the state. So, it’s wise to find out your state’s position on the matter.

Which States Have Squatters Rights?

Every state in the union has squatters rights. However, know that each state has their own set of laws which cover squatters rights. Below is a quick summary of each state, along with the number of years a squatter must reside on the property before they can claim it.

  • Alabama 10-20 years
  • Alaska 7-10 years
  • Arizona 5-13 years
  • Arkansas 7 years
  • California 5 years
  • Colorado 7-18 years
  • Connecticut 15 years
  • Delaware 20 years
  • D.C. 15 years
  • Florida 7 years
  • Georgia 7-20 years
  • Hawaii 20 years
  • Idaho 10 years
  • Illinois 7-20 years
  • Indiana 10 years
  • Iowa 3-5 years
  • Kansas 15 years
  • Kentucky 7-15 years
  • Louisiana 10-30 years
  • Maine 20 years
  • Maryland 20 years
  • Massachusetts 20 years
  • Michigan 10-15 years
  • Minnesota 15 years
  • Mississippi 10 years
  • Missouri 10 years
  • Montana 5 years
  • Nebraska 10 years
  • Nevada 5 years
  • 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
  • Ohio 21 years
  • Oklahoma 15 years
  • Oregon 10 years
  • Pennsylvania 21 years
  • Rhode Island 21 years
  • South Carolina 10 years
  • South Dakota 10-20 years
  • Tennessee 7-20 years
  • Texas 5-10 years
  • Utah 7 years
  • Vermont 15 years
  • Virginia 15 years
  • Washington 7 years
  • West Virginia 10 years
  • Wisconsin 7-20 years
  • Wyoming 10 years

How to Evict a Squatter

When it comes to evicting a squatter, the first step is to look up your state’s rules and regulations regarding the topic, and act accordingly. Next, you need to determine whether the individual is a squatter or tenant.

Once it’s determined that they are a squatter, contact law enforcement and explain your situation. This is where it can get tricky. Some states require the owner of the property to take the tenant to court, other states like Arizona, only require the owner to call law enforcement and have them removed from the property.

Sell Your Property “As Is” to a Real Estate Investor

As you can probably guess, getting rid of a squatter isn’t as easy as you’d initially believe. Depending on your state and particular case, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. If this isn’t something you’re ready for, then you can sell your property “as-is”. Even then it isn’t as easy as it seems, as can be seen in this episode of “Hoarders” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DitjJgxTMTw), where the squatter is the previous owner, and when the new owners purchased the property “as-is”, they also inherited the squatter. If you go this route, sell your property to a real estate investor. Real estate investors generally have no issue if there is a squatter on the property. These property investors will purchase your property for cash, you go on your way, and they’ll deal with the squatters.

Do Not Evict the Squatter Yourself

It may not make much sense, but the owner of the property cannot simply remove someone from their property by themselves. Some states call this a self-help eviction, and is considered illegal. The reasoning for this is to protect the owner from harm. After all, if someone is squatting on your property, you’ve no idea if they are mentally stable or have a weapon. So, as you can see, performing an eviction yourself can lead to the squatter intimidating you or causing you physical harm.

How to Claim Squatter’s Rights

Again, each state has it’s own rules for how to claim squatter’s rights. If you are a property owner, it’s particularly important that you are aware of squatter’s rights, or you may lose your property to a squatter. To illustrate this, a builder in the UK won the rights to a building do to squatter’s rights, with the property owner knowing little about it (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2622995/Squatter-400-000-three-bedroom-house-owned-elderly-woman-WINS-right-ownership-10-years-claiming-squatters-rights.html). That being said, below are the general guidelines for those looking to claim squatter’s rights, or adverse possession in the U.S.

1. The Squatter Must Occupy the Property in a “Hostile” Manner

The definition of “hostile manner” can vary from state to state. In general, it refers to a squatter that knows what they’re doing when they take over the property with intent to take that property over, or someone that simply inhabits the property innocently.

2. Actually Live in the Property on a Day to Day Basis

A squatter just can’t sleep or eat in a building to claim it. The squatter needs to show that they’ve invested time in the upkeep of the property. This could mean anything from performing basic renovations to keeping the lawn mowed, or adding a garden.

3. Make Your Presence Known

This means that you’re open about your habitation of the property. In other words, you can’t hide in the basement of a home and claim it as yours due to adverse possession. This doesn’t mean you have to be social, it only means that as a squatter, you need to show that you are actively living there. You can do this by making a flower garden, painting the house trim, or fixing a driveway.

4. Live on the Property in Question for a Specific Amount of Time

Again, each state will have its own laws regarding how much time must be spent on the property. However, if you reside on the property for that amount of time while making yourself known, fixing up the place, etc. you’re good. Just know that you need to have lived there continuously. In other words, you can’t live there only 6 months out of the year, leave and come back.

5. Meet with a Lawyer

As we’ve previously noted, each state has their own rules and regulations regarding squatter’s and their rights. So, when it comes to claiming your squatter’s rights, it’s wise to get a lawyer to help you claim them.

6. Perform a Title Search

A title search will alert you to anyone else who is laying claim to the property. You can do this via a search engine, or employ a title company to perform it for you.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s the responsibility of the property owner to be aware of squatters and squatters rights. If you can’t be near your property, then it’s a good idea to employ the services of a property management company to do it for you. Also, have a good alarm system installed, along with prominently placed “No Trespassing” signs. By knowing the laws in your state and abiding by them with regards to squatters, you’ll be able to construct a case against them, if it comes to that.

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