Squatters' Rights in Tennessee

By Kesha Ward ; Updated June 05, 2017
Maintained property with landscaping

There are no “squatters rights” in Tennessee, but there is adverse possession. Adverse possession protects the right to remain on a piece of land on which you have lived peacefully for years. You also must believe that you have the legal right to remain on the property. Through the process of adverse possession, a change of ownership is executed, and the title to another individual’s property can be acquired without compensation.

Land Possession

The land should have been openly possessed. Additionally, the tenant should have made some alterations or improvements to the property. The alterations that qualify for adverse possession include landscaping and modifying the structure of the building.

Time Requirement

Adverse possession has a requirement that the land be possessed for seven years. During that time, the owner should not have sought legal action to regain access to property.

Intent to Transfer Property

The intent of the law surrounding squatter’s rights in Tennessee is to protect individuals who believe they have a valid claim to the land. If the land owner intends to give away the land, but passes away before legally completing the transfer, there may be an opportunity for the tenant to remain on the property, as long as they can prove they have been on the land for the required period of time.

Precedent in Tennessee Court of Appeals

In the case of McBee vs. Elliott, the owner promised to give the property to her son, but she passed away before legally completing the process. When individuals claim squatters rights, there refer to this case, because the court ruled in the son's favor, as he proved he had lived in the home for 30 years.

About the Author

Kesha Ward has been a professional writer since 2010. With a Bachelor of Science in applied economics, she brings more than a decade of experience in public finance.