As a property owner who has paid taxes on their private property based in New Mexico, the last thing you want is for squatters to come and claim ownership of the property that is rightfully yours.
Most people may think that it is not easy for someone else to gain legal ownership of a piece of property that does not belong to them but thanks to squatters rights and the adverse possession laws in New Mexico, there is a loophole that may leave you exposed if you are not careful.
New Mexico adverse possession laws are designed to be as fair as possible to both the owner of the property and the squatters trying to gain legal title of the real estate.
In the end, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you pay property taxes, are up to date with the New Mexico squatter laws, and remain vigilant when it comes to watching over your private property.
DoorLoop can be a great help to you in this regard. With plenty of useful resources, easy-to-use templates, and all the information you need about squatters rights in New Mexico, DoorLoop is the best place to go as you take steps to safeguard what belongs to you.
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Now, let’s dive in.
Squatters vs. Trespassers vs. Holdover Tenants
Before going any further, you must take the time to fully understand what it means to be a squatter in New Mexico, and how this will affect you as a landlord. Three terms are often used to describe illegal occupants of another person's property, and these are:
- Squatters: People who invade an abandoned, foreclosed, or vacant property intending to reside there as if the property belongs to them, with or without knowing that it belongs to someone else
- Trespassers: These are people who enter another person's property knowing that they are not supposed to do so and that it is an illegal offense
- Holdover tenants: When the lease agreement between a landlord and tenants expires but they continue living on the property without permission to do so, they become holdover tenants and can be evicted at any time by the owners
New Mexico's adverse possession statute requires property owners to be able to make the distinction between these three types of unwanted occupants of their land or building. Doing so will allow them to take the proper course of action without infringing on any New Mexico squatters rights.
New Mexico Squatters Rights
Considering that the property belongs to you, any property taxes levied on it are paid by you, and you have been responsible for the upkeep of the property, why would New Mexico squatter laws state that a squatter may have any legal claim on it?
If you look at it this way, a squatter's rights may seem to be infringing on the rights of property owners if they can claim legal ownership of the property. However, squatters rights are there for a reason. Consider the following:
- A global pandemic like the one we had in 2019/2020 has hit and no one is allowed to move around meaning a tenant whose lease agreement has expired has no choice but to stay on a holdover tenant
- Your neighbor misread the title deeds and thought that a piece of land that belongs to you is theirs and has been living on the property, paying taxes, and doing general maintenance and development
- Desperation forced a homeless family to take up residence in your abandoned building where they have been living for the past few years
When you think of these circumstances, you will realize that the New Mexico law on adverse possession is justified in giving squatters rights that allow them to not only make a successful ownership claim but continue to live on the property as long as they are paying property taxes.
What does it mean when a squatter claims adverse possession of personal property owned by someone else?
The basics of New Mexico's adverse possession laws are that as long as certain key elements are met, such as living on the property for a specified statutory period of time while paying taxes, a squatter has the legal right to claim adverse possession on the property.
Color of Title
Another avenue that squatters can use to claim legal ownership of a property is by using the color of title. In this case, a squatter can claim to have with them a document that grants them ownership of the property but in reality, they either do not have such a document at all or they have it but it is flawed in some way.
Color of title essentially means ownership of the property is not regular. If the title deed on a property, for example, contains some serious errors, such as the demarcation of the land, it can be used as a color of title if the squatter thinks that it is admissible in court as evidence of their claim.
However, though it is erroneous, color of title can allow the squatters to make their case and have it reviewed by the authorities who may end up granting the squatters rights to live on the property.
Adverse Possession Claim
Even after having paid property taxes on land owned by someone else, it is not so easy for a squatter to claim adverse possession of the property. There are five key elements that a squatter must meet when claiming adverse possession, and they are:
One of the first things that are looked at when claiming adverse possession is how long the squatters have been living on the property or, in other words, the period of continuous possession. In New Mexico, the required period of time to claim adverse possession of the land is 10 years of continuous possession.
What this means is that the squatter must have been living on the property for the entire duration of the 10 years of continuous possession, rather than moving away and later returning to the place to occupy it once more.
Open and Notorious Possession
Another factor to consider is whether or not the property owners were aware of the presence of the occupants in what is known as open and notorious possession. This means instead of hiding in a remote part of the property, the squatters must openly inhabit the land in an area where the landowner can find them after a reasonable investigation.
This may be the only scenario where finding a large number of people on your property instead of just one will work in your favor. According to the adverse possession laws of New Mexico, exclusive possession is required if one is to be granted the legal claim to the property.
In terms of how the squatters have been living on the property, actual possession laws state that they are supposed to have been using it for its original intended purpose, prove exclusive possession, paid taxes, along with regularly maintaining the property. Failure to prove this will result in the adverse possession claim being thrown out.
Simple occupation of land can be regarded as hostile possession and can be used to justify an adverse possession claim. If the trespasser made an innocent mistake by occupying the land without knowing that it belongs to someone else, or without realizing that their presence there is unwanted and unlawful, this will be regarded as a good faith hostile possession.
New Mexico Adverse Possession
Claiming adverse possession is a step-by-step process that gives you, the owner of the property, many chances to prevent this process from reaching completion and have your property rights stripped away.
The following are the things an occupant needs to do to take advantage of squatters rights in New Mexico:
The first step is to enter the property and occupy it. This can be prevented by securing all entrances and using alarms to inform you when there is an intruder on your property.
If you find that all efforts to prevent the entry of trespassers are futile, you can simply erect "No Trespassing" signs so that whoever enters will be a trespasser rather than a squatter.
Next, the squatters have to actually live on the property if they wish to claim adverse possession based on continuous possession. The law states that they have to live on the property for at least 10 years of continuous possession. This gives you plenty of time to visit the property and investigate.
Pay Property Taxes
If the squatters do not pay taxes, no squatters rights will be able to grant them adverse possession of the property. As long as you keep up to date with your own payment of taxes, you will always have a fighting chance of retaining your ownership rights.
Find the Owner of the Property and Sue
Lastly, the squatters have to find the rightful owner of the property and file a lawsuit against them before they can be awarded the property. There is nothing much you can do to prevent a lawsuit, so the best thing is to find a good lawyer and gear up for a fight.
Adverse Possession Laws
Most adverse possession laws will only benefit the squatters if you are lax in terms of maintenance of the property and if spend a long time without paying a visit to investigate. Visit DoorLoop right now and access all the advice you need, specifically tailored for landlords and property owners, as well as download the simple templates that will aid you should you wish to evict squatters from your property.
Can a Property Owner Ask a Squatter To Pay Rent on the Property They Have Been Illegally Occupying?
By definition, a squatter must be living on the property without the owner's permission. If there is any form of a rental agreement, this will no longer be the case because it means you have allowed the squatter to stay.
Unless you want the squatters to stay on for much longer, asking them to pay rent will only serve to complicate the eviction process.
Does Paying Property Taxes Mean a Squatter Can Claim Ownership Rights on My Land?
Paying taxes is a great advantage when it comes to the adverse possession claim, but many other things are required as well, such as exclusive and continuous possession of the property.
Do I Need an Eviction Notice To Remove Squatters Living on My Property?
Yes, it is best to get an eviction order so that you remain legally protected against any accusations of wrongdoing or infringement of squatters rights.
How Can I Fight a Squatter Trying To Make an Adverse Possession Claim on My Property?
The best way to protect your rights as the legal owner is to take the necessary precautions before a squatter can make an adverse possession claim on your property. However, if you are already embroiled in a legal battle, it is best to find a good real estate lawyer to advise you and fight for you.
Make sure you bring all the important evidence that will be required, such as the title deeds, the receipts from paying property taxes, and any eviction notices that you presented the squatters with previously.