Do you own a property in Mississippi? Then it's a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of squatter's rights (adverse possession) as well as eviction laws and Landlord-Tenant laws. Fortunately, DoorLoop has comprehensive guides that will ensure you stay on top of the most recent laws and updates.
Under Mississippi law, a squatter is allowed to claim adverse possession after 10 years of continuous possession and two years of paying taxes. This leads to a change of legal ownership over the property.
If you're dealing with an unwanted squatter on your property, here's what you need to know.
What Is a Squatter?
Squatting, which is often referred to legally as "adverse possession," happens when one or more people possess your property without your consent and fail to make rent payments. Landlord-tenant law doesn't apply to squatters since there is no enforceable rental agreement or an implied agreement if they paid your rent.
You might believe that squatters are simple to get rid of since there is no lease in place and no rent is being paid. However, this isn't the case. This is due to the fact that squatters have rights; hence, landlords must act promptly before one of them takes legal possession of the property without having to pay a dime for it.
Mississippi Squatters' Rights
Although it may seem contradictory, squatters' rights were established to prevent property owners from "taking matters into their own hands" and engaging in vigilante justice.
Decades ago, property owners had the option of evicting trespassers by using or threatening actual violence. That is still the case in certain jurisdictions today; however, it is always preferable to seek help from the authorities rather than resorting to violence.
In the grand scheme of things, squatters' rights exist to ensure that justice is served. Landowners who try to evict squatters on their own risk the situation getting out of hand and endangering both the property and the public.
Squatters' rights also specify each party's responsibilities for assisting in maintaining the local real estate market's stability and the removal of the squatter by the authorities—hopefully peacefully.
Trespasser vs. Squatter
Since the procedures for removal change depending on whether the individual or group is trespassing or squatting or trespassing, you first need to determine which of the two is taking place.
Trespassers are those who briefly enter a property without permission with the intent to steal or cause damage; they may face criminal prosecution or civil penalties. If the landlord claims that the property has been broken into, the neighborhood police can usually get rid of the trespasser.
Squatters, on the other hand, are those who enter a vacant property without permission with the intention of staying there for a long time and generally with the goal of eventually gaining it through an adverse possession claim.
This can happen with rental properties purchased by an investor from a seller who has left the property unused and unmanaged for a considerable amount of time. This is also common in vacation homes that are empty for most of the year.
Mississippi Adverse Possession Laws
A squatter's rights takes the form of adverse possession.
After a specific amount of time, a squatter may claim ownership of the property. According to Mississippi Code Ann. 15-1-13 and 15, a squatter cannot assert adverse possession unless they have occupied the property continuously for 10 years. Furthermore, the individual needs to also pay taxes in Mississippi for a minimum two of those 10 years.
Mississippi also has various regulations for "16th Section Lands." Typically, these properties are kept in a trust for the benefit of public education. A person may assert an adverse possession claim over 16th Section Lands with a valid claim to title and 25 years of actual possession rather than the normal 10 years (Miss. Code. Ann. 29-3-7).
The squatter may gain legal ownership of your property when they file an adverse possession claim. This means that they will no longer be considered a trespasser, have lawful permission to stay on the premises, and the property will be transferred into their name.
However, this will only take place once the squatter satisfies the requirements to claim adverse possession.
The five requirements are:
Most importantly, a squatter must live on the property for a continuous period of 10 years in order to satisfy the adverse possession requirements. Therefore, if the squatter leaves the property and returns to it at a later stage, they will not be able to claim adverse possession. Squatters in Mississippi are also obligated to pay taxes for two of those 10 years.
The trespasser must use the property physically (and visibly) and treat it as their own in order to assert actual ownership. Any documentation related to landscaping or upkeep can be used as evidence in proving actual possession of the property.
The claim will not be recognized if the property is shared between numerous tenants or squatters. Therefore, the person making the claim needs to be the sole possessor of the premises.
The squatter's occupation must be unauthorized and against the right of the true owner for it to qualify as a hostile claim. Squatters are generally aware that the property belongs to someone else, although this claim also covers "good faith" squatters, who are unaware that their presence is unlawful.
Open and Notorious Possession
It must be clear to others that the individual has inhabited the property in order for a claim to qualify as open and notorious. The squatter's capacity to assert an adverse possession claim is limited by any efforts to hide the fact that they are residing there.
Yes, in Mississippi, squatters have to pay property taxes to file an adverse possession claim. Furthermore, they must pay taxes for at least two out of the 10 years required to claim adverse possession.
In other states, squatters don't have to have paid property taxes when claiming adverse possession.
Mississippi Color of Title
Color of title refers to the irregular ownership of a property - the individual occupying the property doesn't have the necessary registrations or documents.
A squatter can acquire the title to a property over a five-year period if the owner has not paid taxes. Two years must elapse after the tax sale. A squatter must hold onto the property for three years under the actual possession laws (they need to be physically be present). They will be able to purchase the title after this. According to Mississippi law, this is a legitimate color of title.
After an adverse possession claim is successfully resolved, the squatter may claim color of title.
There aren't any laws governing the removal of squatters in Mississippi. Therefore, a property owner needs to treat the tenant as if they were a regular tenant, meaning that the landlord needs to go through the judicial eviction process.
Any self-eviction measures are illegal and could result in a potential lawsuit. Self-help eviction measures include shutting off the utilities and changing the locks.
Under Mississippi law, property owners or landlords need a legal reason to evict tenants.
The legal issue that must be resolved in a squatter situation is the failure to pay rent. An initial Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit must be issued by the landowner or landlord. According to Mississippi Code Ann. 89-7-27, this notification must specify the sum that has to be paid in order for the person to stay.
A landlord may also issue various eviction notices, such as an end-of-lease or no-lease notice. If rent is paid on a weekly basis during the tenancy, a seven-day notice to quit must be given; otherwise, a 30-day notice must be given. Landowners may file an eviction lawsuit without giving notice if the squatter breaks a safety, health, housing, or building code.
When dealing with squatters, the courts typically rule in the landlord's favor. A landlord can’t initiate action to evict the squatter or tenant themselves, even if their eviction lawsuit is successful. These measures are prohibited and may subject the landlord to legal action.
Rather, the property owner needs to wait for the sheriff. The sheriff will issue the squatter with a Writ of Execution, which is granted by a judge. The writ must be issued immediately if the reason for the eviction is non-payment of rent; otherwise, it must be completed within five days.
The squatter may have left personal belongings on the property after being evicted, whether voluntarily or by the sheriff. Although there isn't a specific regulation in Mississippi that instructs landlords on how to handle these belongings, it's ideal to try to get in touch with them and inform them that they have a fair length of time to regain their items. If the judge decides that the property owner should be given sole possession of the item, the landowner is free to sell the personal belongings without additional notification or legal action.
Keep in mind that there is a provision relating to adverse possession law if the property owner is disabled. The landowner has an additional 10 years to reclaim their property after their legal incapacity is lifted. A landlord will be considered 'disabled' if they are legally incompetent, incarcerated, or a minor. Therefore, the disability will be lifted when they regain competency, are released from prison, or come of age.
According to Mississippi Code Ann. 15-1-7, no adverse possession for mental illness case may be delayed for more than 31 years.
Protect Against Squatters
We've all heard the saying, "Prevention is better than cure." Therefore, if you want to ensure your property is protected against squatters, follow these tips:
- Place "No Trespassing" signs around the property.
- Pay your property taxes on time.
- Inspect the property regularly and maintain it.
- Get a property management firm to manage the building.
- Offer any current squatters a lease agreement to prevent them from claiming adverse possession.
- Secure the premises by ensuring all doors and windows are locked.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know the various squatters' rights in Mississippi, you are fully equipped to protect your property against unwanted visitors. If you already have a squatter on your property, it's advisable to start the judicial eviction process as soon as possible. You are the rightful owner of the property and deserve to have a say in such property!
If you're thinking about leasing your unoccupied property, have a look at our free Mississippi resources to get a comprehensive agreement form.
Can I Contact the Police When Dealing with a Squatter?
You should always deal directly with the sheriff when you're trying to get rid of a squatter. Sheriffs are in a far better position to assist with removing squatters since they have different authority than local law enforcement. However, you can still notify local law enforcement if there is an illegal trespassing scenario. They will be able to assist with removal in this case.
Who Is Considered a Squatter in Mississippi?
A squatter is any person who occupies a foreclosed, abandoned, or vacant property or land without the owner's permission. This is quite common and is not illegal.
Does Mississippi Honor Color of Title Claims?
Under "color of title" claims, people may be given property ownership titles even if they lack the required paperwork or registrations.
If all of the following conditions are satisfied, Mississippi will honor color of title claims:
- Serve the person with a written eviction notice in a timely manner.
- Contact the sheriff to get rid of the squatters.
- Hire a lawyer if necessary.
Are Holdover Tenants Squatters?
No, a holdover tenant is someone who remains on your property even when the lease agreement has been terminated or expired. A holdover tenant will never be able to claim adverse possession. Furthermore, they can be evicted by the landlord without any notice or additional explanation.
How Long Is a Squatter Allowed to Stay on My Property?
Technically, there's no answer or limit to this question. In fact, if the tenant manages to occupy the property for 10 years and pay property taxes for two years, they'll be able to claim legal ownership. However, this will only be the case if they prove continuous possession, exclusive possession, actual possession, hostile claim, and open and notorious possession.