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Squatters Rights (What It Is And How It Works: Explained)

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What Are Squatters Rights

In real estate law, squatters rights refer to the rights a person may acquire in land or property by unlawfully occupying it for a certain period of time leading to the possible ownership of the property.

In other words, when someone occupies your land or property without your permission, depending on the applicable squatters’ rights law in that jurisdiction, the “squatter” may acquire rights to your property.

Landlords and property owners must get familiar with the squatters’ laws applicable to their property so they do not unwillingly lose rights to their property.

History of Squatters Rights

In the United States, there was a time when there were a lot of vacant lands that the government wished that American citizens occupy thereby bringing the land under US control.

To achieve that goal, the Homestead Act of 1862 was adopted where the government recognized that those who took the risk of moving onto vacant lands to raise livestock or grow crops can legally acquire rights to the land.

That encouraged many to search for vacant lands to occupy, thereby expanding the US territory.

Today, we still have laws allowing a person who occupies land or premises to acquire rights to that property.

These laws are referred to as “squatters rights laws”.

Squatting vs Trespassing

What is the difference between squatting and trespassing?

Squatting is a form of trespassing if you think about it.

However, squatting and trespassing are not the same legal concepts.

Squatting is purely a civil matter where someone unlawfully occupies another person’s property.

On the other hand, trespassing is a criminal conduct that may result in a criminal charges and conviction.

A squatter will typically occupy land or property in a peaceful manner.

However, a trespasser will typically break the locks, break windows, or find another illegal means to access the property in question.

Squatters Rights Legal Definition

What is the legal definition of squatters rights?

What Is A Squatter

To better understand the notion of “squatters rights”, let’s first define the term “squatter”.

A squatter can be defined as:

A person who lives or occupies your land without your express permission or authorization

In some cases, a squatter will deliberately and unlawfully occupy your land and in other cases a person believes in good faith that he or she can occupy the premises.

Squatters Rights Definition

What is the definition of squatter’s rights?

Essentially, here is how we can define squatters rights:

Squatters rights refers to the rights individuals can acquire in private property without paying the rightful owner or obtaining the property owner’s permission

As you can see, further to the applicable squatter laws, a squatter can actually acquire rights, including ownership rights, in your property without having paid for it.

How Does Squatters Rights Work

Squatters rights refer to the rights that someone can acquire in a property over time up to and including ownership rights.

A “squatter” is a person who is intentionally or unintentionally living, occupying, or using land or property without having paid for it or having obtained the permission of the property owner.

For the squatters rights to apply, generally certain conditions need to be satisfied:

  • The squatter is occupying personal property
  • The squatter is exclusively using the personal property 
  • The squatter has lived on that property for a certain period of time as defined by state laws
  • The property owner has never attempted to evict the squatter or remove them from the premises 

You’ll need to consult the applicable state laws to get the exact conditions and requirements for the application of squatters rights.

When a person is exclusively using your land or property without having paid for it or gotten the property owner’s permission, we refer to that occupation as adverse possession.

Adverse possession allows a person to legally acquire ownership rights in a property by operation of the law and without having paid anything to the real owner.

Squatters Rights State Laws 

In the United States, it’s important to note that all the US states have squatters rights relating to instances when someone occupies or lives on your property without your permission.

However, the laws in every state are different and will vary.

For example, in California, if a squatter pays taxes on the land for five years for the squatter to gain adverse possession of the property.

Another example is Florida squatters rights.

In the state of Florida, if a squatter occupies your property for seven years, he or she can acquire rights to your property.

Most states require that squatters either have a deed or have paid taxes on the property for the entire time they were “squatting”.

If you own property, it’s important that you consider the state laws applicable to that property to see how a squatter may acquire rights in your property so you can do what’s necessary to prevent it.

Squatters Rights Example

Let’s look at an example of how a squatter may acquire rights on a property.

A common example of the application of squatter’s rights is with regard to the exact boundaries of neighboring pieces of land.

Imagine that your neighbor builds a new fence by encroaching on your property several feet.

If you do not object to that encroachment, with the passing of time, your neighbor can acquire legal ownership of part of your land that he or she was encroaching.

This is a typical scenario where the squatter laws apply and a person who has been exclusively using your piece of land without your express permission and without having paid for your land acquires ownership rights to parts of your land.

How To Protect Property From Squatters Rights

How do you protect your property from the application of squatters rights?

There are two primary ways you can protect yourself from squatters:

  • Take preventive measures to avoid squatters using your property 
  • Evict squatters who are effectively using your property 

Let’s look at each of these measures.

Preventive Measures

The first measure you should consider is to take preventive measures to protect your property from squatters.

Some common preventive measures taken by property owners and landlords are:

  • Placing “No Trespassing” signs throughout the property 
  • Secure the perimeters of your lands
  • Install alarm systems and cameras 
  • Secure your doors, windows, and access points to your property 
  • Make sure you visit your property regularly if you don’t live there all the time

Evicting Squatters

In some cases, you may realize that someone is already using your property without your permission.

For example, this can happen if someone may have signed a fraudulent lease agreement where they believed that they were lawfully rending your property.

No matter how a squatter has taken over your property, you must immediately consider taking legal measures to remove them from the premises.

Here are some measures that can be taken to remove a squatter:

  • By contacting the police authorities and law enforcement 
  • By consulting a qualified attorney to legally evict the squatter 
  • By contacting organizations that help squatters giving them another place to stay

What Is Squatter’s Right Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

What are squatter rights?

What states have squatters rights?

“Squatters rights” refers to rights individuals (or squatters) can acquire in private personal property with the passing of time.

For example, if a person is exclusively using your land for a certain number of years, paying for the property taxes, and without you objecting to the use, then that person (qualified as the squatter) can acquire legal title to your property.

Pretty much every state has laws and statutes regulating squatters and squatter’s rights.

If you want to know exactly what are the squatter rules applicable in your state, county, or municipality, it’s best to consult a real estate attorney for legal advice.

All property owners can take simple measures to protect their property from squatters such as securing the perimeters of their property, installing a fence, security cameras, alarm system, and so on.

However, if you are confronted with squatters actually on your property, you’ll need to see whether you are dealing with a situation of trespassing (which is a crime) or squatting (which is a civil matter).

If there’s trespassing, the police can help you remove the squatters.

However, if there’s squatting, then you will need to be careful to remove the squatters by respecting tenant laws and the proper eviction rules applicable in your state.

Now that you know what is the squatters law, what rights squatters have, how it works, and why it’s important, good luck securing your property!

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Understanding Squatters Rights

  • Squatters are individuals or groups of people that occupy and live in your property without your permission 
  • Squatting is considered to be a civil matter where someone is illegally (but peacefully) using your property whereas trespassing is criminal conduct where someone will criminally access your property 
  • Squatters laws were originally adopted to encourage settlers and American pioneers take up vacant land in the United States so they can live, grow livestock, and build crops
  • If someone squats on your property and satisfies the legal requirements of the state law, he or she can eventually claim legal ownership on your property 
Adverse possession 
Bailment definition 
Bona fide purchaser
Estoppel by deed 
Eviction notice
Eviction process 
Fraudulent conveyance 
Hostile ownership 
Illegal eviction 
Leasehold estate 
Personal property 
Property investor 
Property title 
Purchase agreement 
Quicquid plantatur 
Real estate lawyer 
Real estate litigation
Strata title 
What is a deed 
What is a squatter
What is fraud
What is trespassing
Squatters rights Alabama
Squatters rights California
Squatters rights Colorado
Squatters rights Florida
Squatters rights Georgia
Squatters rights Illinois
Squatters rights Indiana
Squatters rights Maryland
Squatters rights Massachusetts
Squatters rights Michigan
Squatters rights Missouri
Squatters rights New Jersey
Squatters rights New York
Squatters rights North Carolina
Squatters rights Ohio
Squatters rights Oregon
Squatters rights Pennsylvania 
Squatters rights Texas

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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