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Squatter’s Rights: Laws and Tips for all 50 States

Updated: October 15, 2021

Squatter’s rights refer to the rights of a squatter, which is someone that is living on property that is not theirs. In some States, squatters have rights as tenants or claims to ownership of a property through “adverse possession.”

Table of Contents

Squatter’s Rights: By State

STATE ADVERSE POSSESSION HOLDOVER TENANTS UNKNOWN PERSONS
 Alabama Live and pay taxes on a property for a period of 10 years ((§ 6-5-200)). A squatter may also claim ownership for general possession of at least 20 years (Bradley v. Demos, 599 So. 2d 1148 (Ala. 1992)). Send a 7-day notice to quit (§ 35-9A-421(b)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 35-9A-441(b))
 Alaska If the squatter has the color of title and possession for at least 7 years of uninterrupted possession of at least 10 years (AS 09.45.052). If the squatter has paid property taxes for 10 years then it can be considered proof of adverse possession (AS 09.10.030). Send a 7-day notice to quit (AS 34.03.220(b)) Send a 30-day notice (AS 34.03.290)
 Arizona If the squatter has possessed the property and paid taxes then they may claim adverse possession after 3 years (ARS § 12-523). Or if the squatter has uninterruptedly possessed the property for 10 years (ARS § 12-526). Send a 5-day notice to pay or vacate (ARS § 33-1368(2b)) Send a 30-day notice (ARS § 33-1375)
 Arkansas If the squatter held color of title and paid taxes on the property or on property contiguous to the property to which they are claiming adverse possession then they may claim adverse possession after 7 years (AR § 18-11-106). Send a 3-day notice to quit (A.C.A  18-60-304(3)) Send a 30-day notice (AR § 18-17-704)
 California The squatter must live on the property and pay taxes for 5 years to claim adverse possession (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 325) Send a 3-day notice to quit (CA Civ Pro Code § 1161(2)) Send a 30-day notice (CA Code 1946.1)
 Colorado The squatter has either possessed the property for 18 years or holds color of title and has paid taxes for 7 years (Colo. Rev. Stat. § § 38-41-101, 38-41-108.) Send a 10-day notice to quit (C.R.S. 13-40-104(1)(d)) Notice time varies by length of occupation. See timeline and send a notice to quit.
 Connecticut If the squatter possesses the property for 15 years then they may claim adverse possession (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 52-575). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 47a-23) Send a minimum 3-day notice (§ 47a-23)
 Delaware

The squatter may claim adverse possession after living on the property for at least 20 years (Del. Code Ann. tit. 10 § 7901).

Send a 5-day notice to quit (Title 25 § 5502) Send a 60-day notice (§ 5106)
 Florida If the squatter occupies the property for 7 years and either holds color of title or pays taxes then there would be sufficient proof for adverse possession (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.16). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 83.56(3)) Send a 15-day notice (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.57)
 Georgia Either exclusive possession for a minimum of 20 years (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-5-14) or seven years with color of title (§ 44-4-7). Send an immediate notice to quit (§ 44-7-50) Send a 60-day notice (§ 44-7-7)
 Hawaii If the squatter has lived on the property for 20 years then adverse possession may be claimed (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 657-31 to 31.5). Send a 5-day notice to quit (§ 521-68) Send a 45-day notice (§ 521-71)
 Idaho Payment of taxes and possession (protecting the land by enclosure or continually improving the land) for 20 years (Idaho Code § 5-210). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 6-303(2)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 55-208)
 Illinois Color of title and possession for 20 years (735 ILCS 5/13-101) or possession and continuous payment of taxes for 7 years (§ 13-109). Send a 5-day notice to quit (735 ILCS 5/9-209) Send a 30-day notice (735 ILCS 5/9-207)
 Indiana Live on the property for 10 years while paying taxes (§ 32-21-7-1, § 34-11-1-2). Send a 10-day notice to quit (IC 32-31-1-6) Send a 30-day notice (IN Code § 32-31-1-1)
 Iowa The squatter must have continuous possession for at least 10 years before claiming adverse possession (Iowa Code Ann. § 614.17A) Send a 3-day notice to quit (Statute 562A.27) Send a 30-day notice (§ 562A.34)
 Kansas The squatter must live on the property for 15 years after which they may claim adverse possession (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-503) Send a 10-day notice to quit (§ 58-2507) Send a 30-day notice (§ 58-2570)
 Kentucky The squatter must either live on the property continuously for 15 years (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.010) or must hold color of title while living on the property continuously for 7 years (§ 413.060) Send a 7-day notice to quit (§ 383.660(2)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 383.695)
 Louisiana Either 30 years of continuous possession (CC 3486)
or 10 years with color of title (LA Civ. Code 3475).
Send a 5-day notice to quit (CCP 4701) Send a 10-day notice (La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2728)
 Maine Living on the property for 20 years is sufficient for claiming adverse possession (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 801). Send a 7-day notice to quit (Title 14 § 6002) Send a 30-day notice (Title 14, § 6002)
 Maryland The squatter must possess the property for 20 years then they may claim adverse possession (MD Cts & Jud Pro Code § 5-103). Send an immediate notice to quit (§ 8-401) Send a 30-day notice (Statute 8-402(b)(1)(i))
 Massachusetts The squatter must continually live on the property for 20 years before claiming adverse possession (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260, § 21) Send a 14-day notice to quit (Chapter 186, Section 11) Send a 30-day notice (Chapter 186, Section 12)
 Michigan Exclusive use and uninterrupted possession on the property for 15 years is sufficient evidence for the squatter to claim adverse possession (§ 600.5801). Send a 7-day notice to quit (§ 554.134(2)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 554.134)
 Minnesota The squatter must live on the property continuously for 15 years while paying taxes (§ 541.02) Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 504B.135(b)) Send a 30-day notice (Statute 504B.135)
 Mississippi 10 years of living on the property (uninterrupted) is enough for the squatter to assert a claim (§ 15-1-13). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 89-7-27) Send a 30-day notice (MS Code § 89-8-19)
 Missouri The squatter must live on the property for a minimum of 10 years then they may claim adverse possession (§ 516.010). Send a notice to quit (§ 535.060) Send a 30-day notice (Section 441.060)
 Montana If the squatter lives on the property and pays taxes for a continuous period of 5 years or more then they may claim adverse possession (Mont. Code Ann. § 70-19-411) Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 70-24-422) Send a 30-day notice (§ 70-24-441)
 Nebraska The squatter must have uninterrupted possession for at least 10 years before claiming adverse possession (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-202). Send a 7-day notice to quit (§ 76-1431(2)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 76-1437)
 Nevada Live on the property for a sustained period of 15 years or more (NV Rev Stat § 40.090). The squatter may also live on the property for only 5 years with color of title while also paying taxes (NRS 11.110, NRS 11.150). Send a 5-day notice to quit (NRS 40.2512) Send a 30-day notice (NRS 40.251)
 New Hampshire The trespasser must possess the property for a period of 20 years before obtaining adverse possession (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508:2). Send a 7-day notice to quit (§ 540:3) Send a 30-day notice (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 540:2)
 New Jersey Squatters may claim adverse possession after living on a property continuously for a minimum of 30 years (§ 2A:14-30). Send a notice to quit (§ 2A:18-61.2) Send a 30-day notice (§ 2A:18-56)
 New Mexico The squatter may claim adverse possession in the instance that they live on the property continuously for 10 years and hold color of title (NM Stat. Ann. § 37-1-22) Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 47-8-33) Send a 30-day notice (§ 47-8-37)
 New York A squatter has the legal right to ownership if they have possessed a property for more than 10 years without interruption (Article 5 § 501, 511). Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 711(2)) Send a 30-day notice (N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 232-b)
 North Carolina 20 years continuous possession (§ 1-40) or 7 years with color of title (§ 1-38). Send a 10-day notice to quit (§ 42-3) Send a 7-day notice (§ 42-14)
 North Dakota The squatter must either live on the property uninterrupted for 20 years (§ 28-01-04) or 7 years with color of title to claim ownership (§ 47-06-03). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 47-32) Send a 30-day notice (§ 47-16-15)
 Ohio The squatter must possess the property for 21 years to claim adverse possession (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.04). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 1923.02 & § 1923.04) Send a 30-day notice (§ 5321.17)
 Oklahoma The squatter must have continuous possession of the property for 15 years in order to claim adverse possession (12 OK Stat § 12-93). Send a 5-day notice to quit (Title 41 §131) Send a 30-day notice (§ 41-111)
 Oregon The squatter must have continuous possession for at least 10 years before claiming adverse possession (ORS § 105.620). Send a 6-day notice to quit (ORS  § 90.394) Send a 30-day notice (§ 90.427(3))
 Pennsylvania Living on the property for 21 continuous years can be considered proof of adverse possession (42 PA Cons Stat § 5530). Send a 10-day notice to quit (§ 250.501(b)) Send a 15-day notice (68 P.S. §§ 250.501(b))
 Rhode Island The squatter must live on the property for a continuous period of 10 years or more in order to obtain adverse possession (RI Gen L § 34-7-1). Send a 5-day notice to quit (G.L. 1956 § 34-18-35) Send a 30-day notice (§ 34-18-37(b))
 South Carolina The squatter must live on the property for an uninterrupted period of 10 years or more to claim adverse possession (SC Code § 15-67-210). Send a 5-day notice to quit (§ 27-40-710(B)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 27-40-770(b))
 South Dakota The squatter can possess the property and for 20 years (§ 15-3-1) or possess the property with color of title while paying taxes for 10 years (§ 15-3-15) to claim ownership. Send a 3-day notice to quit (SDCL 21-16-2(4)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 43-8-8)
 Tennessee Squatters may claim ownership by continuously living on the property for 7 years with color of title (§ 28-2-101) Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 66-28-505(a)(2)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 66-28-512)
 Texas A squatter may live on the property for 10 years to claim ownership (Sec. 16.026). Continuous possession while paying taxes and holding color of title for 5 years is also sufficient evidence for adverse possession (Sec. 16.025, 16.030).
.
Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 24.005) Send a 30-day notice (Sec. 91.001)
 Utah The squatter may claim ownership after 7 years of continuous possession and payment of taxes (§ 78B-2-208) Send a 3-day notice to quit (§ 78B-6-802) Send a 15-day notice (§ 78B-6-802(1)(b)(i))
 Vermont If a squatter possesses property for 15 years or more then they have sufficient proof for adverse possession (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 501). Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 4467) Send a 60-day notice (§ 4467(c)(1)(A))
 Virginia The squatter must have continuous possession for at least 15 years before claiming adverse possession (Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-236). Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 55.1-1245(F)) Send a 30-day notice (§ 55.1-1253(A))
 Washington The squatter must live on the property for 10 years (RCW 4.16.020) or they must live on the property for 7 years while either paying taxes or holding color of title (RCW 7.28.050) Send a 14-day notice to quit (§ 59.12.030(3)) Send a 20-day notice (§ 59.18.200)
West Virginia Continuous possession (living on the property) for 10 years in order for the squatter to claim adverse possession (W. Va. Code § 55-2-1) Send an immediate notice to quit (§ 55-3A-1) Send a 30-day notice (§ 37-6-5)
 Wisconsin For the squatter to claim adverse possession, they must either live on the property for 20 years, live on the property with color of title for 10 years, or live on the property and pay taxes for 7 years (Wis. Stat. Ann. § § 893.25 to 893.27). Send a 5-day notice to quit (§ 704.17(2)) Send a 28-day notice (§ 704.19(3))
 Wyoming If the squatter lives on the property continuously for 10 years then they may claim adverse possession (§ 55-2-1). Send a 3-day notice to quit (§1-21-1003) No statute, recommended to send a 30-day notice

How to Claim Squatter’s Rights

An individual may claim rights as a squatter if they are roommates, tenants, or occupying property that is abandoned or not used. A squatter has rights to the property until they don’t. Or at least, until the owner finds out. Below are the common rights a person has as a squatter in the United States.

Roommates / Family Members

If the squatter is a roommate or living with family members they will be required to legally remove the tenant by the State’s landlord-tenant laws. This requires, most commonly, the landlord to send a 30-day lease termination letter. If the person remains on the property, they may file a formal eviction.

Tenants

If the tenant decides to holdover the lease the landlord can send them a notice to pay or quit which usually ranges from 3 to 10 days. After the notice to quit period has ended, and the tenant is still on the premises, the landlord may begin the eviction process.

Airbnb Squatters

If an Airbnb tenant has overstayed their vacation the owner can have them removed without going to the court. If the tenant is under 28 days on the property, the landlord should contact Airbnb immediately for assistance. If that does not help then the guest is treated like a transient, not a tenant, and can be evicted as such in accordance with local laws (usually involves calling the police to assist in watching them leave).

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is the act of obtaining ownership of a property after occupying it for a specified time period required by the State. It helps if the squatter has paid the property taxes and often can help them get ownership of the property faster.

There are five (5) ways to prove adverse possession and all types must be fulfilled:

Actual Use

Actual use is defined as “having dominion over the property”1 meaning a person must use the property in the same manner as someone else would. Therefore, using the property for hunting or storage, for example, may not qualify in a residential area2. Not every case of actual use is black and white, other factors include “whether a claimant “actually” possessed and used the land at issue will depend on the nature and location of the property, the potential uses of the property, and the kind and degree of use and enjoyment to be expected of the average owner of such property.”3 Most importantly, the possession of the property must be “substantial and not sporadic”4, meaning the property must be the claimant’s main residence during the actual possession period.

Sources

  1. Bride v. Robwood Lodge, 713 A.2d 109 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998)
  2. Steuck v. Easley, No. 2009AP757
  3. Joseph H. Striefel v. Charles-Keyt-Leaman Partnership et al, No. Han-98-689. (July 16, 1999)
  4. Phillips v. Akers, 103 S.W.3d 705, 708

Open and Notorious Use

“Means a use that is so apparent that it puts the true owner on notice of the adverse claim”1. The usage of property must be out in the open for all neighbors and residents of the area to see. Furthermore, the claimant should use the property so that “the acts of the claimant’s entry onto and possession of the land should, regardless of the basis of occupancy, alert the true owner of his cause of action.”2

Sources

  1. Appalachian Reg’l Healthcare, Inc. v. Royal Crown Bottling Co., Inc, 824 S.W.2d 878, 880 (Ky. 1992)
  2. Hewes v. Bruno, 121 N.H. 32, 34 (1981)

Continuous Use

Continuous use does not mean the continuation of usage of the property but that no 3rd party, including the record owner, has interrupted the claimant’s possession of the property1. The term “constant” or “continuation” is not defined, although continuous use is met when the claimant is not interrupted at any time when using the property2. For example, continuous use was awarded for seasonal usage of a property in which a hunter was able to claim marshland as adverse possession3.

For adjacent land, a similar approach applies as 2 neighboring landowners thought a property line was different for about 100 years. After the new property line was discovered the court deemed that the property was continuously used through the statutory period and therefore adverse possession had successfully taken place4.

Sources

  1. Ray v. Beacon Hudson Mountain Corp., 666 N.E.2d 532, 535 (N.Y. 1996)
  2. Lewes Trust Co. v. Grindle, 170 A.2d 280, 282 (Del. 1961)
  3. Gunby v. Quinn, 142 A. 910, 913 (Md. 1928)
  4. Northrop v. Opperman, No 2009 AP 1559

Exclusive Use

Defined as “exclusive of the true owner entering onto the land and asserting his right to possession”1 or acting and using the property in such a way it could be only expected of the rightful land owner2.  If the property has a stream, well, or other natural resources that are for use by any person, this does not constitute exclusive use3. Exclusive use also means “the possessor is not sharing the disputed property with the true owner or public at large”4.

Sources

  1. Crown Credit Co., Ltd. v. Bushman, 170 Ohio App. 3d 807, 822 (2007)
  2. Blanch v. Collison, 174 Md. 427, 199 A. 466, 470 (1938)
  3. Marvel v. Barley Mill Road Homes, 34 Del. Ch. 417, 424 (1954)
  4. Joseph H. Striefel v. Charles-Keyt-Leaman Partnership et al, No. Han-98-689. (July 16, 1999)

Hostile Use

Hostile use is defined in 1 of 3 ways depending on the State the property is located.


Bad Faith

It must be expressed that the claimant was fully aware that the property was not theirs and operating in bad faith. For States with a bad faith requirement, such as South Carolina, it has had to be proved in most adverse possession cases1.

Sources

  1. Jones v. Leagan, 384 S.C. 1, 13–14 (S.C. Ct. App. 2009)

Good Faith

Good faith means the claimant truly believed they owned the property and did not take possession believing it was owned by someone else. This is most commonly between adjacent property owners and a tract of land is on someone else’s side of the fence. At the same time, the claimant must prove that they had a “reasonable basis for the belief”1, meaning some reason to show that they believed to own the property. If it’s found the claimant, at any time, knew the property was not owned by them, the property will return to its rightful owner2.

Sources

  1. N.Y. Real Prop. Acts. § 501
  2. Wilcox v. Estates of Hines, 355 Wis. 2d 1, 18 (2014)

Objective

Most States have an “objective” view of hostile use meaning neither does the claimant have a good or bad faith reason to claim adverse possession1. Courts in objective States do not want the laws to “reward the thieves while punishing the person who was merely mistaken.” Simply put, the claimant must act as they have ownership of the property as the true owner, no matter if they actively knew they owned the land2.

An example of an objective use case was in Ohio where a landowner sold 2 houses to separate owners3. For some reason, 1 of the homes had a driveway that was on the neighbor’s land. Due to the use of the driveway through many years adverse possession was claimed. Even though the previous owner sold the land with the driveway on the other person’s property. The claimant proved objective and hostile use through the statutory period.

Sources

  1. Gorte v. Dep’t of Transp., 202 Mich. App. 161, 170 (1993)
  2. MacDonough-Webster Lodge No.26 v. Wells, 175 Vt. 382, 394 (2003)
  3. Kimball v. Anderson 125 Ohio St. 241, 241 (1932).

How to File for Adverse Possession

Step 1 – Occupy the Property

A claimant seeking adverse possession will need to occupy the property for the statutory limit. This should be an abandoned or otherwise unused property that the claimant is not trespassing in the traditional sense. Most adverse possession cases that are won is when the claimant occupies the property in good faith, meaning, they believed the property was theirs.

Step 2 – Take Possession

If a claimant is taking possession they should put up a fence and have “dominion over the property.” This means to act as if the claimant truly owns the property and to use it for its intention. For example, if it’s land, to build a structure on it and make it their home. The possession must take place on a “constant basis” for the statutory period.

Step 3 – Pay Taxes on the Property

The claimant should do everything they can to act as they are the owner including the payment of property taxes and any other local utilities. To start paying taxes on the property, contact the local tax collector, and find out if the taxes are being paid. In addition, if there are any liens they should be paid, although, if the claimant believes they may not obtain rights to the property they may not want to pay the property taxes and liens.

Step 4 – Find the Owner

When the statutory period has been reached, the claimant should contact the local tax assessor or registry of deeds to find out the owner’s name. This information will be needed when filing a case against them for the property.

Step 5 – File a Lawsuit (sue the owner)

When filing a lawsuit the claimant is going to file a “quiet title” which is a filing in the local property court to decide the rightful owner of a property. It’s recommended to hire an attorney to file in the local court and also prepare a complaint for the purpose of adverse possession.

Getting Rid of Squatters

Common Defenses (adverse possession)

There are 3 defenses to use as a landowner to fight off adverse possession claims:

  1. Showing that permission was given by the landowner to the claimant1.
  2. Open and notorious possession was not shown. For example, some States require “known visible lines and boundaries”2.
  3. Property is also being used by others. For example, if the property has a soccer field and is used by a 3rd party.

Sources

  1. Jones v. Miles 189 N.C. App. 289, 290 (N.C. Ct. App. 2008)
  2. Merrick v. Peterson, 143 N.C. App. 656, 663 (2001)

How to Avoid Squatters

  • Make a fence around the property.
  • Create “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs.
  • Give immediate permission to anyone using the property. Make sure to get their signature and keep a copy of the permission of use.

How to Evict

Evicting a squatter depends on the type of property.
Squatters on Raw Land – Whether it’s for access or living in a tent, the squatter should be made aware they are trespassing on the property immediately. This can be done by either calling the police, filing a petition for a court order, or giving notice to the squatter.

  • If the squatter refuses to leave then a court filing may be made with the Sherriff to physically remove the squatter after a court order is made.

Squatters on Residential Property – If a squatter is living on residential property and is trespassing the police should be contacted immediately. If for any reason the squatter is allowed to stay, the owner should begin eviction proceedings immediately.

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