Table of Contents:
- Rights of Squatters in New Jersey
- Squatter's Rights in Alabama
- Pennsylvania Squatter's Rights
- Squatters Rights in New York
- North Carolina Squatter's Rights
- Michigan Squatters' Rights
- Squatters Rights in Maryland
- Squatter's Rights in Arizona
- Squatters' Rights in Massachusetts
- Florida Squatter's Rights
- Squatters Rights in Missouri
- Squatter's Rights in California
- Arkansas Squatters Rights
- What Are the Squatter's Rights in New Hampshire?
- Squatters' Rights in Tennessee
Following the mortgage meltdown of 2008-9, many homes went into foreclosure and were subsequently unoccupied and abandoned. Eventually, squatters moved in. Some believed their occupation gave them the right to possess the property, but in almost all these instances, no such right existed. The requirements for adverse possession -- the legal term for squatters rights -- generally are rigorous, and New Jersey's statutes are stricter than most.
New Jersey's Time Requirement
In every state, a squatter must occupy the property for a specified minimum number of years. New Jersey's requirements are particularly stringent. Woodland or uncultivated property must be occupied for a minimum of 60 years. Other property -- an abandoned house, for example -- must be occupied for at least 30 years. A new statute introduced in 2014 would shorten this period to 20 years.
New Jersey's adverse possession statutes have the usual requirements for adverse possession stipulated in most state laws:
- The occupation must be hostile. This means that the trespasser must occupy the property without the owner's permission.
- The occupation must be actual. The trespasser establishes possession by living on the property or occupying it continuously, not merely by putting up a notice that he owns it.
- The occupation must be open and notorious. The trespasser's use of the property may not be covert and must be apparent to even a casual passerby.
- The occupation must be exclusive and continuous. An exclusive occupation doesn't necessarily mean that no one else uses the property during the occupation, but it has to be clear that the use by others is with the trespasser's permission -- he has to act like an owner. A trespasser can establish a continuous occupation if he uses the property regularly. Short absences, such as leaving to go to work or to shop, do not interrupt the continuity of occupation. Long and irregular absences reset the clock.
Quiet Title Actions and Squatters Rights
Recent changes in some states' laws pertaining to adverse possession have made it harder for an adverse possessor to obtain a quiet title. A quiet title action is a suit brought before the court when ownership of property is either disputed or in doubt. The suit aims to determine who is the rightful owner. At that point, the winner of the suit can record the quiet title just like any other and becomes the rightful owner of a property.
Historically, states have interpreted adverse possession statutes in conflicting ways. In the 21st Century, however, courts have interpreted -- and in some cases legislatures have amended -- adverse possession statutes to disqualify deliberate and knowing occupation and to allow an occupation to move to possession only if the trespass is the result of a good faith or innocent mistake--if, for example, a neighbor mistakenly places a boundary fence on neighboring property. In 2004, neighboring New York State, for example, revised its statutes to restrict adverse possession to "good faith" situations and categorically disallowed knowing trespassers from possession. Subsequently, New York's courts have even applied this rule retroactively, disallowing an adverse possession that began decades before the statute revision.
New Jersey has not made a similar change, but in 2014 it introduced new statutes that shortened the minimum occupation period and no longer required the trespass to be knowing and deliberate. The new language requires only that the occupation be "inconsistent with ownership of the property by others." When this article was written, the new bill had been favorably reported out of committee but had not yet become law.
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.
Adverse possession, commonly referred to as squatter’s rights, is a law that allows someone to automatically acquire legal ownership of someone else's property after a certain amount of time has passed. It can be real estate, such as a house, an entire parcel of land, or just a small section of a larger property. The use of adverse possession dates back to Pennsylvania’s founding when it was used to deal with unused land that wasn't generating tax revenue. Today, the law mostly comes into play during disputes over inherited and forgotten property.
Adverse Possession Requirements
How long the squatter or "claimant" has used or lived in or on the property is the most important determinant of whether she can claim adverse possession. In Pennsylvania, she must have squatted there for at least 21 years, but other qualifications also must be met before she can take someone else's property in this way.
- The occupation must be continuous. The claimant must have used or lived on the property for the entire 21 years. This includes seasonal use of the land for farming.
- The possession must be hostile, meaning that the claimant does not have permission from the owner to occupy the property.
- The possessor must claim ownership of the property. He cannot assert that it is owned by a family member or another party.
- The possession of the property must be “notorious,” meaning the claimant is not hiding his occupation of the property or his activities on the land.
The original owner of the land
- Proof: The true owner first must prove that some or all of the adverse possession criteria have not been met. For example, the owner might show that the claimant hasn’t possessed the property for the full 21 years or hasn’t possessed it continuously.
- Permission: The property owner might also consider giving the claimant permission to use the property and to get him to document this by signing an agreement. This establishes the claimant's knowledge of the true owner of the property and eliminates the “hostility” of the possession, knocking out two of the necessary qualifications.
- Lawsuit: The third option is to take legal action, such as filing a trespassing lawsuit or an injunction that bans anyone from using the property. This establishes legal ownership of the property and provides a way to start the eviction process. Plaintiffs can also request a jury trial to decide ownership.
Squatters' rights to adverse possession of real property are governed by New York Code, Article 5. The state's adverse possession laws are stricter than those in many other jurisdictions, and the state legislature amended them in 2008 to make it even more difficult for a squatter to claim title to property via this route.
Adverse Possession Requirements
"Adverse possession" is a legal way of obtaining title to the property of another through occupation of the property without the owner's consent. This occupation must be obvious, hostile, continuous and notorious. This means the squatter must live on the property openly and without permission of the owner. New York law requires that this use must continue uninterrupted for a period of at least 10 years.
A 2008 amendment to the state's adverse possession laws has made the "hostile" requirement of the statutes more difficult to fulfill. Squatters must now also hold a genuine belief that they have legal rights to ownership of the property.
An individual living on property without an active lease has a right under New York state law to remain on the property until the legal owner goes through the required process of serving him with a Notice to Quit. The notice informs the squatter that he has 10 days to vacate the property. If he refuses, the property owner must then file a document known as a holdover petition with the court.
This legal action allows the property owner to file a formal complaint to have the squatter removed by law enforcement. NY Court Help offers a free program for property owners who do not have the help of an attorney.
New York City Squatters
If a squatter in New York City can prove he's resided in a property for more than 30 days, he has a right to continue living there until the legal owner goes through a court process to obtain a legal eviction. This can be time-consuming, taking up to a year. It is against New York City law to evict anyone immediately, including a squatter.
The Process Can Be Tricky
The process of removing someone from your property can be tricky and time-consuming, and you'll probably have to go back to the beginning and start the process all over again if you make a mistake. If you don't want to hire an attorney to represent you, consider at least consulting with one so you can be sure you fully understand all the rules.
Squatters' rights in North Carolina are addressed in the state's adverse possession laws. Adverse possession refers to the occupation of property belonging to another person without the owner's permission. If the squatter appears to be living on the property as a rightful occupant and fulfills every legal requirement of adverse possession, he may be able to eventually obtain title to the property as the legal owner. Matthew Fleishman, an attorney with Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina, writes that when the adverse possession law was enacted, the intent was to put land to good use.
Title Through Adverse Possession
North Carolina adverse possession laws require squatters to meet the strict requirements of the law:
- Twenty years of continuous possession
- Exclusive possession of the property, showing characteristics of a legal owner, such as residence and improvements
Display possession hostile to the owner by living openly on the property without the owner's consent
If a squatter meets all of these conditions for the statutory period, in this case 20 years, then he may obtain legal ownership.
Seven Years of Adverse Possession
Squatters in North Carolina may obtain property in seven years through adverse possession when the possession is also combined with color of title. Color of title is addressed in North Carolina General Statute 1.38. When a property owner possesses color of title, this means that for some reason the title is invalid, such as the deed was not registered correctly or may even have been forged. To claim ownership through color of title, the squatter's seven-year possession must be continuous, obvious, exclusive and hostile to the owner's rights, just as with the general 20-year provision for adverse possession.
Squatting on State Property
Subject to the same requirements for private property -- that possession be continuous, obvious, notorious and hostile -- squatters on state-owned property must show that adverse possession has been continuous for 30 years. If the squatter also has color of title to the property, the uninterrupted occupation of state property must have lasted for 21 years, instead of seven.
North Carolina holds claim to the first adverse possession laws in the United States, enacted in 1715, according to Brian Gardiner in a paper published by the Indiana International and Comparative Law Review. Read his dissertation on the history of these laws in the U.S.
Squatters, people who take up residence in a dwelling unlawfully, in other words by trespass, have far fewer rights in Michigan than they used to. Midyear 2014 saw a shift in the law, which went from protecting squatters to protecting the landlords and property owners.
Squatters Right of Adverse Possession
Squatters in Michigan may gain title to the property in which they are squatting through adverse possession if they live there continuously and openly for 15 years. This is now harder for a squatter to accomplish given the changes in the law that make it much easier for a landlord or property owner to remove a squatter.
Diminishing Squatters Rights
Before 2014, Michigan landlords and property owners had to go to court and formally evict a squatter. They could not use self-help, meaning they could not change the locks on the property to lock the squatter out, could not remove the squatter's possessions and they could not bodily remove the squatters. These protections have been significantly diminished by the 2014 Michigan Legislature's amendment of the Michigan Revised Judicature Act/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-236-1961-29) through enactment of House Bill 5069, or PA 223, which allows self-help, and House Bills 5070 (PA 224) and 5071 (PA 225), which make squatting a criminal offense and impose increasing penalties for offenses.
Property owners and landlords still may not resort to self-help against squatters who are hold-overs from a previously valid lease that has expired.
The amended Michigan Revised Judicature Act erodes rights squatters previously had by allowing landlords and property owners to enter a dwelling, remove a squatter's possessions and change the locks to lock the squatter out. Squatters are still protected from bodily removal as this would constitute assault and is prohibited by the Michigan Penal Code (MCL 750.81 - 750.90h, Assaults/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-Act-328-of-1931)). However, the landlord or property owner may now call the police and have the squatter arrested because the law now makes squatting a criminal offense.
Squatters as Criminals
Before 2014 squatters were protected from criminal conviction. The worst they could be charged with was trespass. Since 2014, squatting in a duplex or single family dwelling is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a class G felony for any subsequent offense. The first offense carries a fine of up to $5,000 and jail time of up to 180 days. Subsequent felony offenses carry a fine of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to two years.
In the state of Maryland, squatters do not have many rights regarding continuing occupancy if the landowner ("deed-holder") objects. Maryland considers the deed-holder to be the rightful controller of the property and all squatters to be trespassers, whether or not the deed-holder is engaging in active use of the property. Improper eviction, however, may provide the squatter with grounds to sue for damages and squatting over a period of 20 years with no attempt at concealment may grant the squatter legal rights to ownership of the property.
A property owner in Maryland may file what is termed a civil suit of wrongful detainer against any squatter on his property. Wrongful detainer refers to an illegal detaining or use of another's property. A judge will determine whether or not the squatter wrongfully detained the property. If the judge rules in the plaintiff's favor, the defendant has 10 days to execute a right of appeal.
A property owner is required to follow strict legal proceedings to evict a squatter. If wrongful detainer is granted to the property owner in a court of law, a sheriff must arrive on the property with a warrant. A squatter has the right to remain on the property until presented with this warrant. If the property owner attempts to evict the squatter on his own, the squatter may sue for damages. If the squatter was a subtenant of a prior tenant, this may increase his rights and require a formal eviction.
Adverse possession describes a possession, or occupancy, of real estate that is counter, or adverse, to the deed-holding owner. According to Maryland law (Courts Article §5-103), a squatter may remain in possession after 20 years of occupancy if the deed-holder has not objected. A squatter, however, may not attempt to hide his occupancy. The occupancy must be open and easily known to outsiders.
"Squatter's rights" is a phrase used to describe what in legal terms is known as "adverse possession." Every state has one or more statutes dealing with the phenomenon. In simplest terms adverse possession describes a trespasser's occupation and eventual possession of property belonging to someone else. Each state's laws describe how long this occupation must go on and the required conditions that qualify the occupier to become the owner.
Length of Occupation
To qualify for possession, In Arizona the trespasser must occupy the land for 10 years unless he presents a purported deed and has paid property taxes during his occupation. In that event, the period of occupation is shortened to three years, with the exception of "city lots," where the period of occupation is five years. The deed need not be legal, but must be plausible--a quit claim deed, for example, that conflicted with a valid deed filed in the county courthouse would qualify. Arizona's description of plausible status, "under color of title," is the usual one found in state statutes. The remaining requirements for occupation to qualify for possession are set forth in Arizona's Revised Statutes §§ 12-522 and following.
Four Requirements for Adverse Possession in Arizona
Attorney Calvin J. Platten, Jr. describes the four requirements for possession in Arizona. These are the same four requirements described in the majority of state statutes:
• Possession must be exclusive. This doesn't mean that the trespasser must be the only user of the property during occupation. The actual requirement is more liberal, which is that the trespasser must act with "dominion" over the property in a way that makes it clear that anyone else using the property is doing so only because the trespasser allows it.
• Possession must be open and notorious. A trespasser may come on to a large tract of otherwise unoccupied land, build a cabin and live there for years with no one knowing about it. The requirement for the occupation to be open -- unconcealed -- and notorious--easily seen by even a casual passerby -- prevents this kind of stealthy adverse possession.
• Possession must be adverse. Some statutes substitute "hostile" for "adverse," but in both cases the meaning is essentially the same. The occupation takes place without the owner's permission. In fact, one way of stopping an adverse possession is for the owner simply to give the occupier written permission for the occupation. Having the occupier sign the permission confirms that the occupation is no longer hostile.
• Possession must be continuous. "Continuous" possession doesn't require the occupier to remain on the property without leaving. An occupier who left the property to go to work would normally qualify as occupying it continuously. Leaving the property for long periods of time, however, resets the clock. When the occupier returns, the 10 year countdown begins again.
The Pendulum Swings Away from Squatters Rights
Establishing adverse possession of an improved property in Arizona, as elsewhere, is becoming increasingly unlikely. Some states -- Arizona is not yet one of them -- have revised their statutes to exclude entirely any possession where the trespasser knows he is trespassing. In Alaska and New York, for example, the only area left where adverse possession might apply is over minor boundary disputes where one party may unknowingly have put up a fence or put in a driveway that occupies a neighbor's property.
Uninformed individuals often propose a squatter's rights claim where none can possibly exist. In one instance in Texas a man moved into an unoccupied house and soon made a claim of ownership. In fact, the house was unoccupied because the Bank of America had foreclosed on it and regained exclusive title. Moreover, the trespasser's occupation fell more than nine years short of qualifying. The bank's claim quickly prevailed in court and the trespasser was soon evicted.
Some people can own property without ever paying for it. Known legally as adverse possession, the law allows squatters who live on property that does not belong to them for a certain period of time to become the legal owners of that property. To acquire property rights by adverse possession in Massachusetts, squatters must live on a property for 20 continuous years openly and without challenge by the owner.
History of Adverse Possession
Adverse possession laws were created to assist in the settlement of land title claims and the development of unused land throughout the country. These laws allowed people to stake claims to land for personal use, including building houses, raising livestock or farming crops. Historically, Americans believed these laws to be helpful in the development of towns and communities throughout the new country.
Squatters must meet certain requirements in Massachusetts to become property owners through squatting:
- Exclusive occupation of the land continuously for at least 20 years
- Occupation must be obvious and known by others
- Squatter did not have permission of owner to use the land
All of these elements are required to obtain legal title by adverse possession.
Adverse possession claims do not always come from strangers; sometimes they are filed by neighbors. For example, one neighbor openly encroaches upon another's land by installing a fence or driveway. After 20 years, the encroaching neighbor can go to court to ask that the land occupied by the fence or driveway be added to theirs, thus increasing the size and value of their property. If the neighbor has given permission to use his land in this way, title by adverse possession cannot be claimed.
Through trespassing, squatters develop rights to land over time if owners don't take action to remove them. Florida squatters don't have rights to ownership unless they file and present a valid adverse possession claim. Though squatting itself is unlawful, the ability to take the property from you legally through squatting is historically upheld in Florida courts. As an owner, acting immediately upon learning about the situation protects your interest in the property.
Defining Adverse Possession
Adverse possession refers to occupying a property owned by someone else with the specific intention of taking ownership of it. Several conditions must be met for squatters to take the property legally away from you. The first condition is possession. Possession must be continuous for a minimum of seven years. It is hostile possession, meaning the legal owner has no agreement that allows the squatter to be on the property. The squatter must be open to his possession of the property, visible to both the community and legal owner. After enough time passes without the owner taking legal action to remove the squatter, the statute of limitations expires allowing the squatter to file for adverse possession. The last condition is exclusivity. Exclusivity means that only one squatter has the right to make a claim of adverse possession. If five families squatted on the same property, exclusivity is not met.
Trespassing Vs. Squatting
Trespassing by definition is knowingly entering another person's property without permission. While trespassing often suggests temporary entrance, squatting begins as trespassing. Both are illegal. Trespassers can be arrested. However, if the owner does not call the police or legally evict the trespasser, the situation starts giving violators more legal rights. A general distinction: trespassers hide from public view while squatters openly use the property as their own.
It is also possible for neighbors to encroach on a specific part of a property. On larger farm land, an owner may have areas on the property outskirts that are unused. A neighbor may, without permission, start farming the land, creating a potential adverse possession situation. In fact, the neighbor may unknowingly encroach. As in other adverse possession situations, the owner must not have an agreement of use with the neighbor, and the actions must be open and visible.
Claiming Property: Color of Title
A squatter can file the adverse possession claim after seven years. There are two types of adverse possession filing: with color of title and without color of title.
Color of title refers to the squatter meeting the seven year duration. In addition to the time met, the squatter must be cultivating or improving the property, protecting it with substantial enclosures or using the land for supply needs. Squatters must meet both the time and improvement conditions to satisfy Florida laws of adverse possession.
Without color of title refers to taking adverse possession by paying the property taxes and liens on a property within one year of entry, as well as meeting one of the other two conditions of improving the land or protecting it. Paying the taxes alone won't accomplish the adverse possession. The squatter still needs to stay the seven years and be open in use of the property, essentially acting as owner.
Legally Taking Ownership
Once conditions for adverse possession are met, the squatter may file a Return of Real Property in Attempt to Establish Possession Without Color of Title. Once filed, the court will rule as to whether the original legal owner still has a legal claim to the property or whether the squatter is now the legal owner and occupant of the property.
Adverse possession, commonly known as squatters rights, is recognized under the revised statutes of the state of Missouri. A person may lose title to his land if a trespasser occupies or makes use of it, with or without the intent to claim ownership, for a period of 10 years. A trespasser must satisfy five legal elements in order to acquire land via squatters rights.
Open and Notorious Use
A squatter has generally satisfied the open and notorious use qualification under the law if his occupancy, use or improvements to a piece of property are viewable by the rightful owner.
A squatter must occupy or use a piece of land for a period of at least 10 years, with no legal action having been brought against him, before he can attempt to claim title. In some cases, use need not be continuous or consistent. Two squatters could occupy a piece of land for five years each and legally combine their time.
The squatter must use the land in similar fashion to land located in the general vicinity. A squatter can use another person's land for a home or for farming, as long as there are other homes or farms nearby.
A squatter can attempt to claim title via the "exclusive use" clause if the rightful owner of the land has not sought legal recourse and has not permitted any other person to use his property.
In order to prove "hostile use" of the land, the rightful owner of the land must not have granted the squatter permission to use it. Granting permission will often void the "hostile use" requirement and prevent the squatter from gaining title.
Squatter's rights are referred to as adverse possession in modern legal parlance. Adverse possession allows a trespasser to enter someone else's land and gain anything from a small easement (such as a legal right-of-way) to complete control of the property. California law allows for adverse possession where a trespasser complies with several strict legal requirements.
Rationale Behind Adverse Possession
It seems inconsistent with owner rights to allow a trespasser to take legal claim to land, but the policy serves many useful services. First, trespassers may not be intentionally squatting on land. A faulty deed or a dishonest seller may have given the occupier the reasonable belief that she is legally occupying or using the parcel of land in dispute.
To successfully claim adverse possession, a squatter must occupy the land for an extended duration, which means that the land is essentially unused by the original landowner, and thus is being put to productive use, rather than sitting ignored.
Open and Hostile Possession
California adverse possession rules are located in Sections 315-330 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Adverse possession requires open, notorious and continuous possession of a hostile and exclusive nature. This means that a trespasser must take actual physical possession, openly using and improving the land, for her exclusive benefit. It must be the type of use that would be easily observable by a passer-by or by the legal owner. The use and occupation must be continuous; it cannot be temporary, or occasional, or the time period requirement resets.
This must continue for 5 years for an adverse possession claim to mature under Section 322. The payment of property taxes on the land will also be required to allow a squatter to make a claim of legal ownership as opposed to a claim of use (easement) of the property against the original landowner.
If the squatter is in a landlord-tenant relationship, then the adverse possession is 5 years from the last payment of rent, so it will not include the time occupying the property during the lease.
Defenses Against Adverse Possession
The law clearly codifies the belief that a landowner who does not police her properties deserves to lose them, as it is of no benefit to the state to allow land to sit unused. Therefore a landowner needs to make periodic inspections of her land, merely posting signs is insufficient. Another option is to give permission for use of land.
For example, if an absentee landowner were to give written permission to a adjacent property-owner to plant a garden or allow the neighbor's cattle to graze on her land, she can defuse any adverse possession claim since she has acknowledged the use and given permission. Offering to rent property to the user is another option to break any attempt at continuous possession.
"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.
The term “squatter’s rights” describes the process of adverse possession. This is the legal route one can take to gain ownership of real estate by possessing the property for a number of years. It most often comes into play when a land survey reveals that the property line isn’t where a property owner thought and a neighbor has been using the land as his own. New Hampshire law requires people who wish to use adverse possession to gain ownership of land to meet specific criteria.
Length of Possession
The validity of an adverse possession claim hinges on how long the claimant has lived on the property. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and once it passes the original owner can no longer bring legal action against the possessor to retrieve the property. Adverse possession claims in New Hampshire have a 20-year statute of limitations.
Beyond the length of possession, claimants must meet additional requirements to successfully gain ownership under adverse possession:
- Claiming Ownership: The possessor must make a claim of ownership over the property either in writing, verbally in front of witnesses, or by making use of the property. According to New Hampshire attorney Andrew Myers, this includes growing plants and building structures such as fences.
- Continuous Occupation: The possessor must have lived on or used the property for work without interruption for the entire twenty years. Moving away from the property causes the statute of limitations to restart. However, using the land only seasonally for farming or grazing still fits the definition of continuous.
- Open Possession: The claimant cannot attempt to hide his occupation of the property.
- Unauthorized Occupation: The claimant must occupy the property without the consent of the owner.
Contesting Adverse Possession Claims
Property owners can take action against an adverse possession claim before the statute of limitations expires by filing a trespassing motion in court. Owners can also show try to show that the claimant hasn’t met one or more of the necessary criteria, such as proving that the claimant has not occupied the property continuously or for the required amount of time. Owners can also use a lack of fencing or other structures on the property to show that the possessor was not actually using it as his own.
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.
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.
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.