Squatters Rights Differ Wildly by Each State


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Think if someone’s not paying rent for your residential property you can kick them out? Not so fast. Many states give certain rights to tenants, even if they don’t pay rent. Called “squatters’ rights,” these laws allow someone to use or live on another individual’s property if the owner doesn’t take legal action against the squatter.

In many cases, remaining on the property for a certain period of time and paying property taxes during that period is enough to grant the squatter the rights of being the legal owner.

Usually these laws vary by state, as we’ll show in the following slides, and there are some caveats beyond paying taxes and occupying the property for a certain period of time. Let’s break down the states that have squatter’s rights based on the required time period they must illegally live in a home to gain legal ownership of it.

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What IS a squatter?

A squatter is someone who occupies a property (often an abandoned one) without permission and without paying rent. This is different from a trespasser, who enters a property without permission and does not have the intention of staying over a longer period. 

A squatter will take measures to establish themselves as the resident of the property, such as by opening an account for utilities in their name. They may make efforts at improving the appearance of the home (which will help their case should they decide to legally pursue ownership after the required residency period has been met).

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5 years

On the low end, some states require that someone live in a home illegally for just five years in order to be considered a legal owner. 

  • Montana

  • California

Note: In Montana, if there is more than one squatter, Montana will not award the ownership of the property through an adverse possession claim.

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6 to 10 years

Other states have slightly longer time requirements for squatters’ rights.

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • Florida

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Nebraska

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • South Carolina

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Utah

  • Washington

  • West Virginia 

  • Wyoming

Note: In Arkansas, squatters can remain on the property as long as they do not commit a crime until they are given a notice to quit. They also have the right to dispute any attempt of eviction.

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11 to 20 Years

Now the requirements for squatters’ rights are getting a bit longer. Squatters must live in the home illegally for 11 to 20 years to be considered legal owners.

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii (if they have the color of title)

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma

  • South Dakota

  • Virginia

  • Wisconsin

Note: In Nebraska, a squatter must prove that they’ve paid taxes or improved the property, file a quiet title complaint with the court, and attend a hearing to plea their case in order to be granted ownership of the property.

In Virginia, the squatter must continuously occupy the property. If they leave for a few weeks or months during the required period, they will not qualify for ownership.

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21+ Years

Patience is a virtue. In these states, it’s a long game to claim legal ownership of a home.

  • Hawaii (if they do not have the color of title)

  • Louisiana

  • New Jersey

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

Note: In Hawaii, the required period of occupation is 20 years if the squatter has a color of title, or documentation of ownership (even if it’s invalid). Without the color of title, the period increases to 30 years.

In New Jersey, the period for residential property is 30 years, and it’s a required 60 years of occupation for woodland property.

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How to Get Rid of a Squatter

The first thing to note is that you should never try to evict a squatter on your own. It could have negative consequences for you and achieve nothing in terms of removing the party.

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Step 1: Contact the Police

While the police may not forcibly remove the squatter, they can file a police report, which can help you if your case is taken to court.

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Step 2: Give a Formal Eviction Notice

The actual form and requirements will vary from state to state, but this Unlawful Detainer action form is one you’ll need. Speak with your local authorities to make sure you fill yours out correctly to avoid issues later.

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Step 3: Take it to Court

If presenting the squatter with an eviction notice did nothing to get them to move, you’ll need to take your case to court. Have all the evidence you can gather handy to prove that the squatter has not paid rent and was asked to evacuate the premises. If the judge rules in your favor, the police will escort the squatter off your premises.

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