An Alabama squatter may eventually become the owner of property he occupies. The requirements, however, are such that few squatters can qualify.
Squatters rights is the generic term for adverse possession -- the occupation and subsequent legal possession of property by a trespasser who fulfills certain occupation requirements.
Basic Alabama Adverse Possession Requirements
Every state has conditional requirements, including time requirements. In Alabama, the occupier must occupy the property for 20 years. The minimum occupation period is shortened to 10 years if the occupier also pays taxes on the property or lives there "under color of title" -- meaning that the occupier has a plausible reason to believe he has a legal right to the property. Such a belief could arise, for instance, if the occupier inherited a quitclaim deed to the property. The quitclaim deed does not actually establish ownership, however, but only indicates that a potential claimant renounces his claim.
Alabama's conditional requirements are that the trespasser's occupation of the property must be:
• Hostile -- contrary to the true owner's interests;
• Actual -- the occupier cannot merely post the property with a claim of ownership. Usually a claimant lives on the property or uses it regularly as if it were his own;
• Open and notorious -- plainly evident to even a casual passerby. Secret cabins hidden in deep woods do not qualify;
• Exclusive -- the property is not shared with the owner or another claimant;
• Continuous -- the occupant must regularly occupy the property. Seasonal or weekend use is on the borderline of what is allowable. Irregular and occasional uses do not qualify.
Converting Adverse Possession to Ownership
If the occupant fulfills the conditional requirements and occupies the property for the required minimum period, he may then file a quiet title action -- a suit brought to resolve conflicting ownership claims.
The occupant publishes notice of the action in the jurisdiction's newspaper of record, then comes to court and presents his claim. The judge hears any counterclaims, then approves or denies the action to quiet title -- that is, to give the occupant the exclusive right to a recordable deed establishing title.
The Reality of Squatters' Rights
Once a squatter receives a notice of eviction, he has few rights other than the right to leave promptly to avoid arrest.
In Alabama, most notices of eviction give the illegal tenant or trespasser 10 days or less to vacate.