Understanding Squatters


Susan Kelly

Jan 09, 2024

Each U.S. state possesses its specific laws regarding the squatter's rights and the right to adverse possession. For instance, some states require the continuous possession of seven years to obtain privately owned property and other conditions. They are granted the legal right to stay at the property as an owner's tenant regardless of whether they signed the lease agreement. The trespasser could enter a property that is not occupied and start living there. This could happen in investments that do not have tenants at present.

If the trespasser is discovered promptly enough, they may get removed from the property by police and then detained. Squatters who are not detected by the owner and stay on the property for more than 30 days are required to file a lawful removal to remove them from the property. The time it takes for the eviction process to be completed could prompt the owner to agree to pay those who are squatters to leave the property.

Example of a Squatter

Imagine a woman called Felicia purchased an investment property with two bedrooms in 2010 located in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, the owner decided to stop renting the property, and it was empty for a few months. With the threat of the possibility of foreclosure, Felicia decided to place her property for sale. Then, she realized that an unidentified taxi driver had lived in the house for months. Felicia phoned an officer and reported the driver for breaking into the property. After the police had removed the man, she requested her locks replaced. The man was in the apartment for more than 30 days, and the squatter's rights had been established. Exiling him from the property was a wrongful expulsion. The squatter was taken to the housing tribunal in New York City; the judge permitted him to visit the property a few days after.

How Does Being A Squatter Work?

Being a "squatter" is simply a term used to describe a person who is living in a place that isn't owned by them and is occupied without permission. When a squatter has taken their residence, they can be granted "squatter's rights." Each city and state has its statutes and timeframes when rights for squatters take effect. If someone does not stay long enough to be considered a squatter, they are considered trespassers, and law enforcement may be able to remove them.

This is an illustration of the way the squatter's rights can be used in New York state; once a squatter has lived in a home for more than 30 days, and the landlord is unable to make a call to the police to have them removed, or simply wait for them and replace the locks like they would with the intruder. The squatter is legally an individual tenant with limited rights, and the landlord is required to file an eviction suit to get them out. If the tenant has only been present for a few days and the property owner can report the trespasser's presence to the authorities, the tenant will be ordered to be removed (and likely to be detained).

In rare circumstances where a squatter stays in a house for a long time, it is possible to be granted "adverse possession." If adverse possession is proven and the squatter is found to be in possession, they could be the legal owners of that property. Also, the laws of each state differ regarding the duration of this period. It can vary from a few years up to several decades. For a rough example, the time frame is about five years in California to prove adverse possession, whereas it takes 21 years in Ohio.

What It Means for Your Property

Squatters can create a major legal problem for a property owner. If you discover that someone living on the property is not your resident, notify the police or an attorney to determine whether you should initiate an eviction procedure. The best method to stop those who have squatters on their property in the first place but, it is important to make every effort to safeguard your property. A secure fence, locked door and window locks, no-trespassing signage, and cameras for security alarm systems regularly conducting in-person visits of the property will be all helpful in preventing people from becoming squatters. If you're renting your home, make sure you check potential tenants by conducting references and background checks to prevent problems in the future.

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