Did you know that sometimes "trespassers" can take legal ownership of your property in Alabama? Owners must understand squatters' rights in Alabama to ensure they do not lose their real estate.
Adverse possession and squatters' rights are two terms that are used synonymously to describe cases where a person occupying a vacant property may not be the property owner but gain ownership because of continuous possession of the property.
In this guide, we'll provide all you need to know about adverse possession laws to protect your land against a claim of this nature.
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Now, let’s dive in.
A person who occupies a property without first obtaining the explicit and legitimate consent of its rightful owner is referred to as a "squatter" in Alabama and other states. Squatters frequently erroneously believe that they have a legal right to be there, which makes it difficult for them to understand they are doing anything wrong.
Moreover, they tend to occupy vacant or otherwise uninhabited homes and buildings. Among these are properties that have been foreclosed on but never sold, holiday homes that are seldom used, and properties handed down to people in wills who haven't used them.
"Adverse possession" is the term used to describe a system of laws that allow a squatter to get ownership rights to someone else's property after occupying it and meeting all legal requirements to do so. Squatter's rights and "adverse possession" are commonly used interchangeably.
One who seeks ownership of a property through an adverse possession claim is known as a "disseisor." A disseisor in Alabama must meet certain adverse possession requirements before they can assert their squatter's rights and allege title of a property.
Because of how costly it may be to live in the United States, acquiring vacant properties is far more affordable. However, not all squatters are homeless. They could be law-abiding citizens who make a respectable living and can afford to pay their property taxes and other essential expenses.
The truth is that squatters are not subject to prosecution for remaining on your land, even if they don't destroy it or remove any of your belongings. If you don't intervene and give the unwanted guests an eviction notice, they will be able to continue to claim ownership of your property.
Trespassers vs. Squatters vs. Holdover Tenants
Trespassers and squatters are often viewed in the same light. However, Alabama's adverse possession laws draw a clear distinction between the two.
To put it plainly, a trespasser is someone who illegally enters another person's property or does so without their consent. They are explicitly forbidden from entering that property (either verbally or via signage), but they do so anyway.
Squatters are those who live on your land and keep it livable. They are conducting maintenance, investing in the home, and possibly even covering the costs of the mortgage, rent, property taxes, and more. Despite the fact that the deed bears your name, the squatter is the one who actually takes care of the property.
Holdover tenants also referred to as "tenants at sufferance," are those who stay in a rental unit after their lease has expired. As long as the landlord allows it, a holdover tenant must keep paying rent at the current rate and under the present conditions.
However, the tenant may face legal repercussions if the landlord gives the renter notice to vacate the premises. In the case of month-to-month leases, a landlord is required to provide a 30-day notice to vacate, and for week-to-week leases, a seven-day notice is required.
Property owners have the right to file an eviction lawsuit if the tenants do not vacate by the end of the notice period.
Therefore, a holdover tenant who has been given the notice to move out won't be able to file an adverse possession claim. They have now crossed the line into trespassing and are breaking the law.
Keep in mind that the renter is not required to leave if the landlord continues to receive rent. As the tenant is on the property at will, the landlord has the right to order them to vacate the property at any time and without giving them any prior warning, according to landlord-tenant laws in Alabama.
Alabama Adverse Possession Laws
The truth is that Alabama has some of the most stringent rules concerning adverse possession. There are five adverse possession requirements that must be met before a squatter may claim the right to property in the state.
Large squatter groups rarely have a strong case for adverse possession when they inhabit a property collectively. The squatters must establish exclusive control of the property for a minimum of 10 years in order to be eligible for adverse possession in Alabama.
A person in hostile possession is one who is aware that they are trespassing. However, it can also refer to squatters engaging in "good faith" occupation who are unaware that their presence is illegal or who have been tricked into believing they are entitled to be there.
Squatters in Alabama must retain continuous and uninterrupted possession of the land for at least 20 years. They will also be responsible for paying property taxes that may be due during that time.
Active or Actual Possession
A squatter must also be in active possession or control of the home to qualify for property ownership. This suggests that they are not only residing there but also maintaining it as if they were the owners. They are doing basic maintenance and taking care of the property.
Open and Notorious Possession
Squatters must use the property in a transparent and open manner. Their acquisition cannot be made secretly. Anyone visiting the place must be able to tell that the occupant is actively using and controlling it.
If the person occupying the property moves in secretly, they cannot file an adverse possession claim.
Color of Title
Squatter laws, whether in Alabama or elsewhere, are typically discussed in terms of "color of title."
The truth is that squatters did not purchase the land they were residing on. They lack a deed or any other legal documents attesting to their ownership.
However, a squatter may be granted "color of title" in Alabama and numerous other states, which means that their lack of documentation will not bar them from a prospective adverse possession.
The minimum occupancy requirement may be reduced from 20 to 10 years if they can show they have paid property taxes for 10 consecutive years.
One of the greatest fears many property owners have is that their vacant property might be lost to squatters. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to prevent adverse possession claims in Alabama. Here are a few tips to help you safeguard your home:
Up Your Security
To prevent squatters from gaining the legal title of your property, it's important to ensure that it has been adequately secured.
If a squatter cannot get onto your land, they cannot claim ownership of it. Make sure your doors and windows have been secured and that you have locks installed to keep people out. It's also a good idea to set up an alarm system and install cameras to property your property.
Pay the Property Taxes
Who paid taxes is often the deciding factor in adverse possession cases. When you pay your taxes regularly and on time, you won't have anything to worry about.
Visit the Property Regularly
It is important to nip the problem in the bud, so to prevent a squatter from filing an adverse possession claim, it is essential to visit the land, building, or house regularly to see whether there are any squatters.
Display "No Trespassing" Signs
Place "No Trespassing" signs throughout the property in plain view in areas where there will probably be foot traffic. By doing this, squatters are unable to argue that they were unaware of the property's policies prohibiting them from occupying it.
In contrast to the majority of states in the US, Alabama simplifies the process for evicting squatters. There are not many legal issues that can become problematic.
A landlord or property owner has two options for getting rid of squatters:
- Follow the eviction process
- Consider them tenants and request that they pay rent
There are no specific guidelines for squatters in the Alabama eviction process. You must address them as renters and pursue the process of tenant eviction instead.
The Eviction Process
Rent arrears, lease violations, and unlawful activity are considered sufficient legal grounds for eviction by a landlord.
The landlord may give a seven-day notice to vacate the property for issues including unpaid rent or illegal activity. Moreover, the Seven-Day Notice to Comply option also notifies squatters that they have a week to find a solution or they risk being evicted.
Landlords must file an eviction petition with the courts if the squatter still refuses to vacate after the seven-day period has passed.
What If a Squatter Refuses to Leave?
Contact local law enforcement if the squatter still refuses to leave after the notice period has expired. It's important to remember squatters' rights. Do not use force to evict them, threaten them, or turn off their utilities. To have them removed from the premises, you might need to hire an attorney and file an unlawful detainer complaint, if necessary.
As a property owner in Alabama, it's crucial for you to understand squatters' rights. To file an adverse possession claim, settlers must be able to prove hostile, continuous, active, open and notorious, and exclusive possession of the property.
The good news is that you can ensure your property is not lost without violating squatters' rights. All you'll need to do is follow the eviction process.
Keeping track of your properties and tenants is a must if you are a landowner and run a rental business. With DoorLoop, you'll find everything you need in one place, so you can manage your business more effectively and prevent losing your land, building, or house to an unwelcome guest.
To try our property management software out for free or learn more about it, get in touch with us today! If you want to know more about squatters' rights in other states, feel free to browse our website.
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Are squatters required to pay property taxes in Alabama?
In Alabama, squatters can acquire possession of a property without having to provide evidence that they have paid taxes.
However, if the squatter can demonstrate that they pay taxes and have been paying for 10 consecutive years, the adverse possession period for a claim might be lowered from 20 years of being on and sustaining the property to just 10 years.
If property taxes are not received, your county will mail a delinquency notice to you. You can check how much unpaid taxes you owe and the due date for payment in this notice.
What is the adverse possession period in this state?
A squatter must have occupied a property for at least 20 years to claim adverse possession.
Can a squatter claim adverse possession if they have been asked to vacate the property?
No. Squatters will have to leave when the property owner serves a notice to vacate the property. As a result of the disruption of their possession of the property or land, this will eliminate any likelihood of their filing for adverse possession.
Can a squatter still claim adverse possession in Alabama if they have been served an eviction notice?
No. If a squatter has been served a notice to vacate and still fails to vacate the premises, they are trespassing and may face criminal charges.
When is a property considered "abandoned?"
Squatters frequently try to live in abandoned buildings. When the property taxes are not paid for a year or more, a property is deemed abandoned in Alabama. It's important to remember that certain municipalities may have different definitions, so it's important to check the local laws for more information.