What would you do if someone occupies your vacant property without your permission? Although squatting is often seen as a criminal offense, it's legal in many US states. Moreover, squatters can even claim ownership of a unit where they have lived for an extended period.
However, state laws also allow landlords to take legal action to protect their property and prevent other individuals from claiming the right to live there. Do you want to know more about them? You've come to the right place!
Here's everything you need to know about squatters' rights in Idaho, local adverse possession laws, the right processes to evict them, and more!
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Squatting in Idaho
- How can landlords get rid of squatters? A property owner can remove someone who has squatted on their buildings or lands by filing a forceful detainer lawsuit.
- Do Idaho squatters require color of title? Yes, they do! Having color of title is a requirement to start the adverse possession process.
- Do squatters have to pay property taxes in Idaho? Yes, they have to pay property taxes for the full occupancy time.
- What is the required occupancy time in Idaho? Squatters can make an adverse possession claim after 20 years of continuous occupancy.
What Is A Squatter?
The term "squatter" describes individuals who occupy abandoned or vacant property without the owner's permission. Since squatters don't own the unit they use or pay rent to be there, many believe this act can be prosecuted as trespassing. However, both terms are different.
Squatting vs. Trespassing
The main difference between squatting and trespassing is how both acts are handled. A trespasser can be charged and punished for a criminal offense. Depending on the circumstances, it may be considered an infraction, felony, or misdemeanor.
However, most squatting cases are handled as civil matters unless individuals occupy a property where they cannot live, as determined by the owner. If this occurs, squatting can also be treated as a criminal act.
Can Squatters Avoid Being Prosecuted as Criminal Trespassers?
In some cases, squatters can avoid prosecution for trespassing, including the following:
- When they beautify an abandoned unit by planting flowers, doing some improvements or major repairs, and performing maintenance work
- When they occupy a disused property
- When they enter and live in a vacant unit due to a legitimate emergency
Squatters vs. Holdover Tenants
The term "squatter" is also mistakenly used to describe lessees who refuse to vacate a property after the rental period ends. However, they're actually known as "holdover tenants."
A holdover tenant or "tenant at sufferance" may decide to remain in the property even if the lease term has expired but is responsible for continuing to pay rent at the rate set in the original lease.
If the landlord agrees to let the tenant stay in the unit and accept the rent payments, lessees continue to live in the property at the owner's will.
However, a property owner can evict a holdover tenant at any time without issuing a previous notice. If they refuse to vacate the property, lessees could face legal action through an unlawful detainer lawsuit.
An unlawful detainer lawsuit is a legal resource landlords can leverage to evict tenants from their Idaho property.
Moreover, holdover tenants cannot claim adverse possession if the landlord has already asked them to vacate the property, as they would be considered criminal trespassers.
Adverse Possession Claim
Squatters have rights and are protected by federal laws. Some may even start an adverse possession process to gain legal ownership of the property after living there for a few years. If it's successful, they're no longer considered criminal trespassers.
However, Idaho has more requirements than most US states when it comes to adverse possession claims. Therefore, it's much more difficult for squatters to obtain favorable results if they want to claim rights to occupy a property that belongs to someone else.
Idaho laws favor property owners since squatters must prove many requirements and occupy an abandoned unit for a considerably long period. In this state, they can make an adverse possession claim only 20 years after living there continuously.
Additionally, squatters who plan to leverage this doctrine to take possession of someone else's property must comply with five legal elements. In this regard, their occupancy should be:
- Open & Notorious
Under Idaho law, a squatter must also complete the following if they plan to make an adverse possession claim:
- Secure the property with a substantial enclosure or make significant improvements
- Hold color of title
- Pay property taxes during the 20 years of continuous occupancy
These are the essential requirements that squatters in Idaho should meet to start the adverse possession claim process:
Idaho requires squatters to establish actual possession by demonstrating that they're physically present in the unit or area of land and use it as if they were the rightful owners. In most states, they can document their efforts to beautify the property if they want to prove actual possession.
However, it isn't enough in Idaho since making improvements to the unit is mandatory to make an adverse possession claim.
Even if they meet the other requirements, a squatter who has not made improvements to the unit they occupied may have their adverse possession case denied.
Squatters are also required to prove that they're the only ones owning the building or land through exclusive possession. In other words, if the property is shared with other trespassers, tenants, or landlords, they cannot make a successful adverse possession claim.
Idaho requires squatters to live on the property for at least 20 uninterrupted years to file an adverse possession claim. Also, there are no exceptions that can reduce this time frame.
Open & Notorious Possession
Moreover, individuals cannot try to hide that they have squatted on and occupied the property if they want to make adverse possession claims. Anyone, including a property owner trying to discover their unit's status, should be able to notice that someone has gained access to it and lived there.
Finally, squatters in Idaho must prove hostile possession. However, that doesn't mean they must have occupied the property in a dangerous or violent manner. This element has three different definitions according to the legal system:
- Simple Occupation: Most states follow this rule, defining mere land occupation as "hostile." Therefore, squatters aren't required to know that the property was owned by someone else.
- Awareness of Trespassing: Under this rule, squatters must know they have trespassed on the property and have no legal rights to be there.
- Good Faith Mistake: In some states, there's a provision for those who squatted on someone else's property because they faithfully believed they had legal rights to be there. It includes those who had an invalid or incorrect deed and didn't know the unit's legal status.
Color of Title
If you searched for information on squatters' rights in Idaho, another term you may have come across is "color of title." In this state, it's another essential requirement for those who expect to start the adverse possession process.
Having color of title means that the individual has gained property ownership, but it isn't "regular" because they don't have some required documents, such as legal memorials or registrations.
Unlike other states, Idaho makes it easy to remove squatters from their properties. Instead of starting a tedious and time-consuming eviction process, landlords can make them leave by filing a forcible detainer lawsuit.
A squatter can be considered a forcible detainer if they refuse to leave after occupying a property by force, through threats, or when the owner is absent.
Landlords planning to file a forcible detainer suit must follow one key step: serve squatters with an eviction notice. These are the available options:
- Three-day Notice: It's the most common eviction notice in Idaho.
- 30-Day Notice to Quit: It's the eviction notice that property owners should send to holdover tenants.
In addition, landlords may issue eviction notices for the following:
- No lease
- Nonpayment of rent
- End of the lease agreement
- Committing waste
- Illegal activity
- Violations of the lease terms
Property owners must also face squatters in court. After serving the first eviction notice, landlords must deliver the Summons and Complaint to them 24 hours before the hearing.
An Idaho Court must schedule a trial within 72 hours after the property owner or manager files the complaint. In this case, landlords must present key evidence proving the following:
- They're the legal owners of the property that has been squatted or have the right to live there.
- Squatters occupied the property and currently live there.
- They can give a convincing and factual description of the property.
- Squatters gained access to the property and forcibly stayed there.
- There is no landlord-tenant relationship or lease agreement.
What Happens If The Court Rules In Favor Of The Property Owner?
After obtaining a favorable ruling at the hearing, property owners must get a Writ of Restitution and deliver it to the sheriff, who must forward it to the squatter, asking them to vacate the unit immediately.
As a property owner, you can follow some tips to prevent your property from being occupied by squatters. Find some below!
- Don't forget your property taxes: If you paid property taxes on time, you could prove that the unit squatters have occupied belongs to you.
- Inspect the vacant unit regularly: Frequently visiting your properties can help you prevent others from occupying it without your permission.
- Secure your property: If you install locking systems or fences, you can prevent others from trespassing on your buildings or land.
- Offer other options to squatters: You can try to reach a rental agreement with them to avoid the tedious adverse possession process.
- Serve written notice as soon as you can: If you realize someone has occupied your property without your permission, don't wait until the last minute to start the legal process to evict them.
- Hire a lawyer: Having the help of an attorney with experience in adverse possession laws is a game changer!
In many states, claiming adverse possession to gain legal ownership of an abandoned property is easy. Fortunately, Idaho laws are different and protect landlords from squatting.
Squatters must meet many requirements in order to make a successful adverse possession claim and can only start the process if they have lived in the property for 20 years. Therefore, if someone has occupied your building or area of land without your permission, don't hesitate to seek help from experts and check out these resources!
Free Forms Available for Idaho Landlords
Do you need more help to evict squatters from your property or list a vacant unit for rent to prevent it from being occupied without your permission? From rental applications to eviction notices, DoorLoop has free forms that can make the job easier!
What Happens If I'm Legally Disabled?
Idaho has a disability clause regarding squatters' rights that protects property owners who are legally disabled, including minors, prisoners, or legally incompetent people. In these cases, individuals cannot file an adverse possession claim until 20 years after the disability is lifted.
Can I Protect My Property If I Pay Property Taxes?
Yes, you're right! Paying taxes can prove you own the unit and prevent squatters from gaining property ownership, even if they have lived there for more than 20 years.
Should I Call the Sheriff or the Police?
If you want to evict squatters, you should call the sheriff, as they handle civil cases. Local law enforcement officers are responsible for criminal actions.
Is It Easy To Remove Squatters From My Idaho Property?
Yes, it is! Idaho laws make removing squatters and preventing them from taking ownership of property much easier than in other states.