"Squatters Rights" is the popular term for adverse possession -- the occupation of property belonging to another. Eventually, a squatter may be recognized as the legal owner, but only under very specific conditions and after an extended period of time.
Arkansas Time Requirements
Every state has statutes governing adverse possession, one of which is a qualifying occupation of the property for a specified length of time. In Arkansas, in addition to several other requirements, the trespasser must occupy the property for seven years.
Arkansas's Five Standard Requirements
Arkansas shares certain requirements with most other state adverse possession statutes. These are:
- Actual Possession: Physically present and occupying the property as an owner.
- Continuous Possession: Occupying the property without interruption, except for short absences for such activities as work and shopping.
- Open and Notorious Possession: Not hidden from the lawful owner and easily seen.
- Exclusive Possession: Not shared with the true owner or with anyone claiming ownership.
- Hostile Possession: Contrary to the owner's interests and without her permission.
Arkansas's Two Additional Requirements
In 1997, consistent with a nationwide trend toward toughening up adverse possession statutes, Arkansas added two additional requirements. Under the revised statutes, occupants in Arkansas can qualify for eventual possession only if they occupy the property "under color of title." The meaning and efficiency of this phrase is disputed -- one 2011 law review paper stated that the meaning was "problematic in several aspects." In 2005, however, the Arkansas Court of Appeals in Boyette v. Vogelpohl ruled that it meant that the occupier believes in his right to possession.
The other requirement added in 1997 was that the occupier must pay taxes on the property during the time of occupation, which is only possible if the true owner fails to pay them.
The Move Away from Adverse Possession
Arkansas's 1997 statute revisions are part of a move by several states, Alaska and New York among them, to sufficiently revise and toughen up adverse possession requirements to limit successful claims to such relatively minor issues as a homeowner who mistakenly builds a fence on his neighbor's property. In such instances, several years may pass before a later survey reveals that the fence is on a neighbor's land. In those instances in Arkansas, the title to that area bounded by the true property line and the occupying fence may become the occupier's property, generally after a finding of facts favorable to the occupier and a subsequent judgment of the court.
In other states with similarly rigorous newer requirements, the occupying party still would not receive clear title, but only a limited right to continue the occupation. In these states the title, and along with it the right to sell or otherwise dispose of the property, remains solely with the original owner.