top of page
  • Writer's pictureSeth Flora

What Are Squatter's Rights?

Understanding squatters' rights is essential for property owners and real estate professionals. This blog explores what squatters' rights are, their historical context, the difference between squatting and trespassing, and steps to protect property against unlawful occupation. It also offers state-specific legal information, helping you navigate this complex topic.


What Are Squatter's Rights?

What are squatter’s rights?

Squatters' rights, also known as adverse possession, are legal principles that allow a person who unlawfully occupies someone else's property to potentially gain legal ownership of it over time. This concept, deeply rooted in common law, is based on the idea that if a property owner fails to enforce their property rights within a reasonable time frame, those rights may be forfeited to the occupant who visibly takes over the property.


Core Elements of Squatters' Rights

Possession: The squatter must physically occupy the land, living on it as if they own it.


Adverse/Hostile Claim: The occupation is without permission from the legal owner and may be in direct opposition to the owner's interests.


Exclusive: The squatter doesn’t share control of the property with others, especially the legal owner.


Open and Notorious: The occupation must be obvious to anyone, including the owner, so they are aware (or should be aware) of the adverse claim.


Continuous and Uninterrupted: The occupation must be continuous for a specific period set by state laws, often ranging from five to thirty years.


Difference Between Squatting and Trespassing

Understanding the distinction between squatting and trespassing is crucial. A trespasser illegally enters a property without intent to reside, while a squatter unlawfully resides and may claim tenant rights. This distinction affects how property owners can legally respond: trespassers can be immediately removed by the police, but squatters often require a formal eviction process​​​​.


Steps to Protect Yourself and Property

Regular Inspections: Frequently check your property, especially if it's vacant.


Clear Ownership Signs: Maintain signs, fences, and gates.


Formalize Temporary Arrangements: Use legal documents for any temporary occupancy.


Contact Authorities: In case of illegal occupation, involve law enforcement.


Stay Updated on Taxes: Ensure you’re the sole individual paying property taxes.


These measures are essential for preventing squatters from claiming adverse possession​.


State By State Guide

Alabama: Squatters can claim possession if they hold the property's deed or pay taxes for 10 years. Adverse Possession Statute


Alaska: Adverse possession requires either a deed and seven years of residence or 10 years of tax payments on the property. Adverse Possession Statute


Arizona: Squatters need a deed and three years of tax payments to claim possession, but for city lots, the period extends to five years. If a neighbor builds over the property line, they can claim that area after two years. Adverse Possession Statute


Arkansas: Possession is gained after seven years with the deed and tax payments, according to Arkansas Code Annotated 18-11-102. Adverse Possession Statute


California: Five years of tax payments on a property entitles a squatter to claim adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Colorado: Squatters can claim possession after 18 years of residence with a deed or seven years of tax payments. Adverse Possession Statute


Connecticut: Fifteen years of residency grants squatters the right to claim possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Delaware: Twenty years of residency is required for a squatter to claim property rights. Adverse Possession Statute


Florida: Squatters who pay taxes for seven years can claim adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Georgia: Squatters can gain possession after seven years on the property; the requirement is 20 years for undeveloped land. Adverse Possession Statute


Hawaii: Occupying a property for at least 20 years is necessary for potential ownership. Adverse Possession Statute


Idaho: An oral claim for possession requires at least 20 years of tax payments. Adverse Possession Statute


Illinois: Squatters need 20 years of overt occupancy and seven years of tax payments to pursue a deed transfer. Adverse Possession Statute


Indiana: Ten years of occupying a neglected property openly is needed for adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Iowa: Adverse possession is attainable after 10 years of open possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Kansas: A continuous 15-year actual possession of the property is required by law. Adverse Possession Statute


Kentucky: Squatters can claim possession after 15 years, provided they establish Color of Title for seven years. Adverse Possession Statute


Louisiana: Ten years of continuous possession without disturbing the peace grants squatters rights. Adverse Possession Statute


Maine: Squatters must possess the property continuously and uninterrupted for 20 years with a title claim or tax payments. Adverse Possession Statute


Maryland: The general requirement for adverse possession is 20 years of continuous possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Massachusetts: Squatters need 20 years of open, actual, notorious, exclusive, and ongoing possession to claim ownership. Adverse Possession Statute


Michigan: After 15 years of overt possession, squatters can seek legal title through court. Adverse Possession Statute


Minnesota: Fifteen years of open, actual, obvious, exclusive, and continuous possession are required for adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Mississippi: Ten years of open, obvious, and exclusive uninterrupted use is needed for adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Missouri: A squatter must maintain continuous possession for a minimum of 10 years. Adverse Possession Statute


Montana: Five years of continuous possession is required for squatters. Adverse Possession Statute


Nebraska: Ten years of continuous, open, and notorious possession is necessary. Adverse Possession Statute


Nevada: Squatters need at least five years of residence to seek adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


New Hampshire: Continuous possession for at least 20 years is required. Adverse Possession Statute


New Jersey: A 30-year occupancy is needed for adverse possession claims, extended to 60 years for woodlands. Adverse Possession Statute


New Mexico: Ten years of occupancy with apparent title and tax payments is required. Adverse Possession Statute


New York: Squatters must live openly and illegally on the property for a minimum of 10 years, with a 30-day period for former tenants in NYC. Adverse Possession Statute


North Carolina: Twenty years of continuous possession is standard, reduced to seven years with a justifiable ownership belief. Adverse Possession Statute


North Dakota: A 20-year occupancy or seven years with implied title/tax payments is required. Adverse Possession Statute


Ohio: Squatters must reside on the property for 21 years openly and obviously. Adverse Possession Statute


Oklahoma: Fifteen years of occupancy is necessary for adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Oregon: A 10-year occupancy is required. Adverse Possession Statute


Pennsylvania: A 21-year statutory period of occupation is needed. Adverse Possession Statute


Rhode Island: Ten years of occupancy is required for claims. Adverse Possession Statute


South Carolina: A 10-year occupancy period is necessary. Adverse Possession Statute


South Dakota: Squatters need 20 years of occupancy or 10 years of tax payments for claims. Adverse Possession Statute


Tennessee: Seven years of possession with implied title or 20 years without it is needed. Adverse Possession Statute


Texas: A continuous 30-year occupation is required for claims. Adverse Possession Statute


Utah: Squatters must occupy the property for seven years. Adverse Possession Statute


Vermont: A 15-year residence is needed for adverse possession. Adverse Possession Statute


Virginia: Fifteen years of open and illegal occupancy is necessary. Adverse Possession Statute


Washington: A 10-year occupation is required. Adverse Possession Statute


Washington D.C.: Fifteen years of squatting enables adverse possession claims. Adverse Possession Statute


West Virginia: Ten years of occupation are required for claims. Adverse Possession Statute


Wisconsin: Twenty years of hostile, exclusive, open, notorious, continuous, and uninterrupted possession is needed. Adverse Possession Statute


Wyoming: A minimum of 10 years of occupation is necessary for claims. Adverse Possession Statute



Final Thoughts

Navigating squatters' rights requires understanding local laws and taking proactive steps to protect your property. Regular inspections, legal documentation, and prompt action in case of unauthorized occupancy are key. Stay informed and consult legal professionals for specific situations.


Comments


bottom of page