Someone getting into your personal property without your permission is likely seen as a criminal offense. Unfortunately for the property owner, sometimes, this is legal.
Squatters can make an adverse possession claim in order to gain legal title to the unit. On the other hand, if the property owner doesn't make a reasonable effort to file for formal civil eviction, they may have to let the squatter stay without paying rent.
Thankfully, there are many factors that affect squatters' rights in this state. Hiring a property management company could help you address some common concerns, but if you don't want to go through that hassle, this page has everything outlined for you.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about adverse possession laws in Nebraska and what you can do if you ever get a squatter on your property.
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Now, let’s dive in.
- Time of Occupation to Take Actual Possession/Legal Ownership of a Property: 10 years of continuous possession.
- Is the Color of Title Required?: No.
- Getting Rid of Squatters: The property owner can begin a regular civil eviction process.
Squatter in Nebraska
A person is considered a squatter in Nebraska (and in any other state in the US) when they go into a property without permission from the person who owns the legal title to the land (which is the owner).
The "squatter" label is given to those who occupy any kind of property, including abandoned, foreclosed, or simply unoccupied units. Squatting is considered a civil matter, which is quite different from trespassing.
Squatter vs Trespasser and Holdover Tenant
Before we dive into the adverse possession laws, let's quickly explain the difference between squatting, trespassing, and having a holdover tenant since the three of those are different.
A trespasser is considered a criminal, as the act is considered a criminal offense. If the squatter goes inside a property even after the owner established that they don't have permission, they may get treated as trespassers.
Some trespassers aren't even aware that they're trespassing. Others use fraudulent papers to claim possession of the property, which is illegal.
Now, there are some exceptions that you should be aware of:
- People who beautify the property in any way may avoid getting arrested for trespassing.
- People who enter the unit in case of an emergency could avoid trespassing charges.
- Anyone who wants to claim adverse possession must ensure the property isn't currently in use by anyone.
Now, what about holdover tenants? These are people who choose to stay in the rental property even after the lease ended. Landlords have two options here:
- Send a written notice to the tenant so that they leave.
- Let the tenant stay on the property under the condition that they pay rent under the established conditions.
If the landlord goes for the second option, they must be aware that the tenant will not become a tenant at will, which means that they can get evicted at any moment without any prior notice.
Keep in mind that holdover tenants can't claim adverse possession if the rightful owner of the property already told them to leave.
Adverse Possession Laws
All states have different regulations when it comes to making an adverse possession claim. Nebraska is one of the states where there aren't many harsh requirements for the squatter, which could be a downside to the owner.
Still, the squatter must meet several different requirements for them to be eligible for an adverse possession claim. Let's cover everything you should know about adverse possession laws.
According to Nebraska's Legislature's Revised Statutes (§ 25-202, 213), squatters must prove 10 years of continuous possession of the property before filing for adverse possession. This period is extended by 10 more years if the owner is legally disabled.
As the squatters' rights mention, if the squatter is able to claim adverse possession, they will now become legal owners of the unit, and they can't be treated as trespassers anymore.
There are, however, five factors or rules that squatters must abide by if they want to file for adverse possession. We'll cover that topic further on this page.
Color of Title
The Color of Title is "given" when the owner is missing some of their property's documentation (or has incorrect papers), making them "irregular" owners.
However, adverse possession laws in Nebraska don't require Color of Title to make a claim. This will not affect the requirements for a squatter to claim the property either.
As mentioned before, squatter's rights ask squatters to meet five different rules if they want to occupy the real property. Let's go over each requirement:
Hostile possession refers to when someone takes claim of a piece of land without permission from the owner. In the most commonly followed version of this rule, the squatter doesn't necessarily have to know they're occupying someone else's vacant property.
Other definitions for hostile possession include one where the trespasser is aware of their status and another where the trespasser argues they made a "good faith mistake" when occupying the unit, as they relied on incorrect papers without knowledge.
Most states go for the "Simple Occupation" definition, which is the first one we mentioned. The rule that the least states consider is the "good faith mistake" one.
Squatters must be physically present on the property, and they should treat the property as if they were the true owner. Many people provide documentation of maintenance of beautification efforts, which can help their case.
Open and Notorious Possession
In any case, it must be obvious to anyone who makes a reasonable investigation that there's someone squatting on a unit. In other words, the squatter can't hide their "squatting" status.
Squatters can't share possession with other people, including strangers, tenants, or even the owner. Overall, the trespasser/squatter must be the only person currently operating/possessing the rental properties or land.
In order to not be treated as criminal trespassers, the squatter must stay on the property for a minimum of 10 years. However, this period must be uninterrupted, meaning squatters can't leave for weeks or months and then return, as that time will not count toward the 10-year mark.
Nevada Eviction Process
Even though a squatter may try to become the lawful owner of a property through an adverse possession claim, it's not as easy, especially if the owner acts on this soon.
In Nebraska, all the owner has to do is start a formal civil eviction case, which implies sending an eviction notice to the squatter so that they either pay rent or leave.
You can send different notice letters to your squatter, depending on the case:
First, we have a three-day notice to quit, which owners typically serve once the squatter refuses to pay for rent. The letter should include the amount of money the owner is requesting from the squatter.
Then, we have a five-day notice to quit in case the squatter is using the property for illegal activities. Here, if the squatter doesn't leave within the specified period, the owner can file a "Petition for Restitution" with their district clerk or county. Then, the owner will file a "Summons and Complaint" notice. Finally, the owner will get a trial hearing date within 14 days.
Now, what happens with holdover tenants who don't have a lease? They can serve a seven or 30-day notice to quit, depending on the type of tenancy both parties were working with.
In any case, if the owner gets their eviction request granted by the judge, they will issue a Writ of Restitution, which is a final notice that the sheriff will give the squatter
Here, the sheriff will give the squatter a max of 10 days to leave the premises. Otherwise, they will get forcibly removed by them. It's recommended that owners hire someone other than the sheriff to remove the squatter's personal property.
It's vital to note that, while law enforcement agents can help with trespassers, they can't help with squatters. Only a sheriff or constable can work in this situation.
Additionally, owners can't take any self-eviction measures, as that's illegal.
Absolutely! If you want to prevent a squatter from claiming adverse possession, you should take action as soon as possible. However, doing that doesn't mean that you won't ever get squatters again.
If you want to avoid getting squatters in the future, consider the following:
- Get into your property regularly and make inspections.
- Secure your property.
- Pay your property taxes.
- Offer a rental agreement to the squatter.
- If you don't want the squatter to stay even by paying rent, then serve a written eviction notice as soon as possible.
- Consider calling a sheriff if the squatter refuses to leave.
- Consider hiring a lawyer if you believe you will need to file a lawsuit.
The squatter's rights in Nebraska aren't something you should ignore. Squatters may be able to become the actual owner of a person's property if the true owner doesn't exercise their legal right to have them removed in time.
Thankfully, there are many measures that you, as a lawful owner, can take before dealing with these claims. We hope this article has helped you understand squatters' rights more in-depth.
Hiring a real estate investor or real estate investing company isn't necessary to understand the specifics of the law. As long as you have some time to read these articles, you will be prepared to overcome many of these obstacles!
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How Do I Evict a Squatter in Nebraska?
You must file a formal civil eviction suit. In other words, you will try to evict the squatters as if you were trying to evict a regular tenant after the lease ends.
How Long Should You Be in a House to Claim Squatters' Rights?
The time will depend on the state. In Nebraska, squatters must be in the property for at least 10 uninterrupted years if they want to claim adverse possession.
Do Squatters Need to Pay Property Taxes in Nebraska?
Nebraska doesn't ask squatters to pay property taxes. Some people pay them and get the receipts and necessary documentation to help their case, but that won't change the requirements to enjoy standard "squatters' rights."
What Should I Do If the Squatter Doesn't Leave My Property?
If you already served written notice and got a Writ of Restitution, then you can call a sheriff so that they can forcibly remove the squatter. You can't do any self-eviction measures.