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What are Squatter's Rights?

Navigation:  Home > Real Estate Law > What are Squatter's Rights?


Squatter's Rights are a laymen's term for something called adverse possession in the legal world. And, indeed, one can lose their property through adverse possession, though it is an ancient law and not something that occurs often in today's world. The doctrine of adverse possession is one that discouraged disuse of property, thus, if property was abandoned, and someone else "squatted" on it for a number of years, the squatter could gain control over the land.


Under the law of adverse possession, however, it's not as easy as just pitching a tent on a piece of land and after a certain period of time has passed claiming that it is yours. Through adverse possession, someone must be on the land for a period of five to fifteen years, depending on the state. During that time, the person must hold the property hostile to the owner's rights - in other words, the person couldn't be there under the permission of the owner. The possession must also be open and notorious, i.e. the possessor is saying to the world, "This land is mine!" The possessor must also be holding the land exclusively for him or her self, and not for someone else.


In most cases, adverse possession is not of entire areas of land. Rather, adverse possession is usually where a neighbor is using an piece of someone else's property for a garden or something similar for a period of years. After the statutory period has passed, that piece of land becomes the property of the possessor. This case would not apply to a landlord tenant relationship, even if the tenant stopped paying rent, because the tenant entered the property with permission of the owner-landlord.

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