21 States Where Squatters Could Legally Take Over Your Property

Owning property is a big investment, but there’s a risk you might not know about. In some states, squatters can take your property through a legal concept called adverse possession. This means that if someone lives on your property without permission and meets certain conditions, they could legally claim it as their own.

These old laws can leave property owners vulnerable. In this article, we’ll explain how adverse possession works and what criteria squatters must meet to claim your property. Understanding these laws can help you protect your investment and avoid losing your property.

What Is Adverse Possession?

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Adverse possession is a legal concept where someone can claim ownership of land or property they don’t originally own, provided they’ve used it openly, continuously, and without the owner’s permission for a certain period. This rule can lead to surprising shifts in property ownership if the actual owners are not diligent about monitoring and maintaining their rights over their land or buildings.

How You Can Lose Your Property to Adverse Possession Claims

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You could lose your property to an adverse possession claim if you neglect it or are unaware of squatters living on it for a long time. If squatters occupy your land openly, care for it, and, in some cases, pay property taxes without your challenge, they might legally claim ownership. This situation often occurs with properties that are not regularly checked or maintained by the owner. To prevent losing your property this way, it’s important to frequently inspect your property, address any unauthorized use immediately, and ensure all property taxes are paid in your name.

California

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In California, squatters can legally own your property after just five years of living there and paying property taxes. And it’s much more common that you might think, especially for those with vacation homes.

Washington

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Washington’s seven-year requirement, along with paying property taxes, can turn temporary stays into permanent ownership. Property owners should stay vigilant and aware of their land’s occupancy.

Florida

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After seven years, paying property taxes, and some official paperwork, squatters in Florida can claim legal residency. There are a surprising number of successful adverse possession claims in Florida.

Arizona

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In Arizona, ten years of care and attention to a piece of land can lead to squatters claiming ownership. This calls for property owners to actively manage and maintain their land to avoid such situations.

Alaska

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Alaska’s vast wilderness presents a unique challenge, where ten years of occupancy can lead to loss of property. Owners of remote land must ensure they’re not unwittingly hosting future claimants.

South Carolina

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A decade in South Carolina is enough time for someone to potentially claim your property. Be cautious about who you allow on your property for extended stays.

Oregon

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Ten years in Oregon is enough to lose your land. There are horror stories of whole communities setting up shop on a remote part of someone’s land for a decade, unbeknownst to the landowner. They’ve then made adverse possession claims and won, stealing the land out from under the original owner’s nose.

Texas

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With a ten-year requirement, Texas property owners should keep a close eye on their land to prevent squatters from claiming ownership. Regular checks and maintenance are key.

Nevada

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Fifteen years can turn a dream property in Nevada into a squatter’s reality. It’s important for property owners to remember that even remote and seemingly unattractive lands can be targeted.

New York

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Ten years of unnoticed occupancy in New York can lead to squatters claiming abandoned properties. Urban property owners need to be diligent in managing and checking on their properties.

Michigan

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A 15-year period of inattention in Michigan could result in losing lakeside properties. Owners should make regular visits to ensure their cherished places remain in their possession.

Virginia

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Virginia’s 15-year requirement for adverse possession means that pieces of American history could easily shift ownership. Stories of ancient estates and vineyards quietly falling into new hands serve as a stark reminder for property owners to consistently monitor and care for their land.

Colorado

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An 18-year wait in Colorado highlights the need for property owners to monitor their mountainous retreats closely to prevent squatter claims.

Massachusetts

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In Massachusetts, a 20-year period of neglect can lead to squatters legally taking over historical properties. This calls for owners to actively protect their heritage by keeping a close watch on their properties and ensuring they’re maintained, safeguarding against unexpected claims.

Georgia

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Twenty years could see your Georgia retreat claimed by someone else. Keep an eye on your secluded spots to protect them from becoming someone else’s home.

Illinois

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Despite a twenty-year requirement, Illinois property owners should remain vigilant, especially with historic homes that could attract squatters seeking to claim ownership through patience.

North Carolina

North Carolina house After 20 years, squatters in North Carolina can legally claim ownership of properties. This includes idyllic beach bungalows and secluded mountain retreats.

Maryland

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In Maryland, 20 years of oversight can result in losing waterfront properties to squatters. There are cautionary tales of fishing cottages and waterside homes gradually being taken over, emphasizing the importance of proactive and attentive property management to maintain ownership.

Pennsylvania

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With a 21-year requirement, Pennsylvania’s property owners need to be proactive in safeguarding their historic properties from adverse possession claims.

Ohio

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Ohio’s 21-year requirement offers a lengthy window for squatters to establish a claim, so you’ve got plenty of time to check on your property and take action to put an end to unauthorized occupancy.

New Jersey

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New Jersey’s 30-year squatters’ rights period is a reminder for shore house owners to remain vigilant over their coastal investments. Even though 30 years is an incredibly long time to wait, there have been many successful adverse possession claims.

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