In Indiana and other US states, squatters can occupy vacant units they don't own without the permission of the actual owner. However, although this act seems unlawful for many reasons, it can be illegal sometimes.
What can Indiana landlords do to protect their property from squatting? Can owners remove them from their units with an eviction notice? Is it possible for squatters to gain legal ownership of the land? Read on to find all the answers!
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Indiana Squatters' Rights
- Time required to claim possession of the property: Squatters in Indiana can claim adverse possession and gain ownership of a unit if they have lived there for 10 years.
- Property taxes: In order to claim adverse possession, squatters are required to pay property taxes during the 10 years of occupancy.
- Color of title: It isn't mandatory for the adverse possession process.
- Removing squatters from a property: Landlords can remove squatters through an eviction notice.
Who Is a "Squatter"
Indiana laws describe squatters as people who have occupied a vacant, foreclosed, or abandoned unit, expecting to live there despite not having permission from the property owner.
Unlike tenants, squatters don't pay rent or comply with the maintenance conditions or rules set in a lease agreement. Therefore, this act can affect property owners in many ways.
However, although it's seen as a criminal practice, squatting is legal in many US states, and it's more common than you may think.
Squatting vs. Trespassing
Many believe that "trespassing" and "squatting" define similar acts. However, these terms aren't the same.
Overall, squatting is a civil matter unless the property owner establishes that an individual or group is not welcome in the unit, but they occupy it anyway. Trespassing, though, can be considered a criminal offense.
Both trespassers and squatters can falsely claim they have a right to the property by presenting false or fraudulent documents or deeds to local authorities or actual owners. However, doing this is also illegal.
Unlike trespassers, squatters have rights and can take possession of a unit if they meet the adverse possession requirements. However, they can be arrested for criminal acts if they fail to meet them.
Additionally, there are some exceptions to the squatting and trespassing rules that property owners need to understand. These are:
- Squatters can avoid prosecution as trespassers by cleaning up debris, planting flowers, making improvements, or beautifying the property.
- Prosecution for trespassing can also be avoided if squatters have occupied the property due to a legitimate emergency.
- A squatter can only start the adverse possession process if the property was not in use.
Squatters vs. Holdover Tenants
Many also believe that holdover tenants are also squatters, but they aren't.
Also known as "tenants at sufferance," holdover tenants are people who rent a property but don't vacate it after the lease period ends.
Instead, they continue to pay rent at the same rate. In some cases, the landlord agrees, and the lessee is upgraded to "tenant at will." Landlords can kick them out even if they don't have an eviction notice.
However, when lessees receive a notice to quit but don't vacate the property as requested, they may be subject to legal action through an unlawful detainer suit. Furthermore, holdover tenants who make adverse possession claims at this point are considered criminal trespassers.
Indiana Adverse Possession Laws
Under Indiana law, a squatter may be able to claim rights in a property after living there for at least 10 continuous years. It's known as "adverse possession."
A squatter who makes an adverse possession claim could gain ownership of a property and not be considered a criminal trespasser even if they didn't have legal permission to access it.
Under US federal laws on squatters' rights, they must meet five legal requirements in order to make an adverse possession claim. These are hostile, actual, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous possession.
However, the Indiana Supreme Court made a particular move to restructure and rename the elements considered for adverse possession. In this regard, the occupation should be:
- Control: Squatters must have full and sole control over the property.
- Intent: They must also claim full ownership of the unit.
- Notice: Squatters must serve the legal owner with a formal notice indicating their intent and exclusive control.
- Duration: They must establish and comply with all the elements for 10 continuous years to make an adverse possession claim.
Color of Title
Besides learning about squatters' rights in Indiana, property owners should also find out about a common term in these cases: color of title.
This document shows that the squatter's ownership of the property is not regular because they don't have all the required legal documents, including registrations.
In some states, squatters planning to make an adverse possession claim are required to have color of title. However, Indiana doesn't belong in this group.
Squatters in this state can claim color of title after the adverse possession claim is completed.
However, having color of title doesn't mean that squatters living in an entire land can claim rights to it. The document only grants ownership over the area they have occupied.
Some states have established special laws to remove squatters from someone else's property. Unfortunately, Indiana is not one of them. However, landlords in this state can take advantage of the legal disability law.
In Indiana, if the property owner is legally disabled (is a minor, imprisoned, or incompetent), they have up to two years after their disability is lifted to take legal action and get their units back, even if the continuous possession period ended.
Landlords can also file an eviction to make squatters leave the property if the police have not removed them due to documents granting them rights to be there. Here are the different options you can consider:
- 10-Day Notice to Pay Rent: It sets an amount that squatters must pay to remain on the property. If that payment is not made after 10 days, the rightful owner can file an eviction.
- 45-Day Notice to Quit: Landlords may also serve squatters with a 45-Day Notice to Quit if they have performed any illegal drug activity on the property.
- Immediate Eviction: If squatters commit waste or any prostitution activity in the unit, property owners can file an eviction suit without prior notice.
If the eviction lawsuit is successful, landlords must seek Writ Execution in court. This document must be given to the sheriff, who should use it to give the squatters a final notice to leave or remove them if they refuse to do so.
Do you have a property in Indiana and want to protect it from squatting? This is what you should do!
- Check the property regularly
- Pay property taxes on time
- Securing the property with locking systems on doors and windows
- Install fencing around the property
- Post "No Trespassing" signs on the vacant unit
- Issue written notices as soon as you realize squatters are on your property
- Offer squatters the option to pay rent to stay there
- Call the sheriff instead of the local police to remove squatters from the premises
- Seek legal counsel from an experienced lawyer, especially if you expect to file a claim to evict squatters
Squatters can claim ownership of an abandoned property under Indiana's adverse possession laws and regulations regarding their rights. However, they must meet some requirements.
Besides proving the actual possession of the unit, they must live in the property regularly, be there for at least 10 years, pay property taxes, and more.
Therefore, before executing any action to try to evict them, you should seek help from a professional to analyze the entire situation and know if an adverse possession claim is legitimate.
Do you want to find more information about squatters' rights in Indiana? Here are some resources that can help:
Free Forms Available for Indiana Landlords
Do you need more help handling the processes related to your vacant property in Indiana? From lease agreement templates to rental application forms, Doorloop has many tools for you!
What Happens If the Squatter Leaves Personal Property Behind?
If quarters leave personal property at the unit after vacating it, landlords are required to notify them and take the items to a storage unit or warehouseman.
Can a Squatter in Indiana Take Possession of Property?
Yes, they can! Under the adverse possession laws in Indiana, squatters can take possession of the property if they meet some conditions.
How Long Do Squatters Have to File an Adverse Possession Claim?
In Indiana, squatters can file an adverse possession claim after 10 years of continuous occupancy.
Do Squatters Need Color of Title to Take Possession of an Abandoned Property in Indiana?
No, having color of title is not a requirement in Indiana.