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The term squatter can send potential property owners and landlords into a fit of terror and anguish. Thinking about adverse possession conjures up thoughts of unruly people occupying your property or house without any option to get rid of them. Adverse possession is often a little more complex than that, although these cases do exist and can be a real pain.

If you're going to buy or rent a vacant property, you might want to get up to speed with everything you need to know about squatters' rights. It is crucial to know your local state's own laws surrounding this unfortunate situation affecting your legal title. Let us teach you more about what is a squatter and how to provide them with a formal eviction notice.

Definition of a Squatter and Their Rights

You might be wondering what makes someone a squatter, so we are going to discuss it further now. It can sometimes be a little hard to define a potential adverse possession claim, so let's get down to the most basic definition. In most cases, a squatter is someone living on another person's property without the legal right to do so. Generally, these individuals are not contributing to any property taxes or rent for the right to live there.

It could be a person that breaks into an empty property and begins living there without the permission of the property owner or landlord. In another case, it could be a tenant who stops paying their lease agreement but continues to live in the rental property with no remorse for the actual owner.

Some renters or roommates stay in a property long after the terms of their lease have expired while not paying rent to the legal owner. Multiple other scenarios could qualify for this situation, but more than likely, the squatter fits into one of those unlawful detainer lawsuit categories.

Should You Just Hope Squatters Leave?

Even if the particulars of your situation might be a little complicated, you probably know your tenant is a squatter when you see the criteria mentioned above. Suppose strange people take up residence in your property or a tenant has overstayed their agreement or lease; in that case, you assume they are going to pick up and leave soon in the hopes of avoiding confrontation known as adverse possession.

However, by any account, you must never let any evicted squatter stay on your property longer than they already have, primarily if they have caused mental anguish for you and your family. In fact, in many states, if the person ends up staying long enough, they gain squatters' rights and are then allowed to remain longer, which could be terrible for property owners.

What Are Squatter Rights?

Adverse possession is also known as squatter rights. It legally allows people to use another individual's property if the landlord does not attempt to evict squatters on their land. In some cases, if left long enough without eviction, the property title can even be converted to the settler through an adverse possession claim. However, this only occurs in a few states, so be aware of this when dealing with these unscrupulous individuals.

Of course, this may not sound fair to the rightful owner who has legal possession of a property, but the law exists to discourage vacant property ownership. You might as well sell it to an investor rather than lose all the equity and property taxes if you don't really care about the real estate or who lives there.

Some other details come to mind when thinking about squatter's rights, including legal possession if the settler leaves and attempts to return or if the landlord removes the squatter's rights. However, it is good to note that the settlers' law varies greatly from municipality to municipality and state to state.

How Do I Get Rid of Squatters?

In most cases, you don't want to hand over the right to your real estate to some random trespasser or stranger who attempts to claim it on adverse possession grounds. It would help if you got rid of squatters sooner than later.

First off, you must call the local police, as they must assist you with removing the person from your property if they have committed an offense. The police can determine if the squatter lives there or is a trespasser. If they are a trespasser, the police can remove them immediately. However, if they identify the people or person as a squatter, then there is nothing they can do. That is when you need to begin to take legal action to remove the squatters from continuous possession.

There are likely local and state requirements related to the squatters' rights that you need to follow to make dealings umbilical. In this case, you should serve an eviction notice or written notice to the squatter right away. If not followed accordingly, you could end up in trouble with state or local laws protecting squatter's rights.

Chances are these individuals might leave because of the notice, but there is also a great chance that they remain on the real property. If they stay on the property, it is highly recommended to contact a lawyer specializing in unlawful detainer action to make an adverse possession claim.

When a squatter refuses to leave, it is time to file a civil lawsuit over the illegal use of your property and prevent squatters from returning. Again, you need to check with local and state laws for the specific pieces of information required to present during the court hearing. That also means you need to be available to attend any eviction court hearings to forcibly remove unruly tenants.

Assuming the court awards your victory and you prove ownership, you might still have trouble ensuring that the squatters are removed from the premises. Once the decision has been made and the squatter still refuses to leave, you need to remove the squatter by legal manners by contacting the police. In other words, please be aware that you may pay a fee for this service, but at least you can finally close the door on the process and have the tenants removed.

The last problem with squatters is that they often don't care about the property or land and don't try to take everything when they leave. That means there may still be items on the property even though the tenants have gone. Such an action leaves homes in bad shape, and owners have to fork out thousands of dollars to get them repaired.

It is understandable to want to throw everything out in the trash and move on, but unfortunately, there may be local and state laws that prevent you from doing this. Squatters' rights can be a struggle for quality tenants staying at your property with your permission because it can cause an unnecessary mess in rare cases.

When you need to hold onto the property for a certain amount of time waiting for it to be claimed, you may have to pay for the rent of a storage locker or other solutions.

What If I Don't Want to Deal with Squatters?

The entire process of getting rid of squatters through a legal claim can take you anywhere between weeks to a couple of months, which could be highly frustrating for homeowners. There are even some instances where evicting squatters could take years because of some laws. Once you see things going down that road, you might want to get as far away from the situation as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to sell your property to an investor as-is and allow them to deal with the problem.

More often than not, a real estate investor can purchase the property even if it has squatters or trespassers because they know how to deal with squatter's rights. Real estate investors make you a cash offer for the property and can even secure the deal in a few days; then, you let them deal with the property and squatter themselves while you get on with the rest of your life.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have a trespasser or a squatter on your property, it can be a real pain and can cause you endless amounts of mental anguish. It would help if you got rid of the squatter as soon as possible to keep your property in tip-top shape and avoid any unnecessary dramas regarding the conditions of your home.

If you are a property owner, you owe it to yourself to care for your home by contacting local law enforcement and authorities to begin the eviction process.

David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his two children, he's writing articles here!