Most people know this real estate term by its more commonly used name – squatter’s rights. Yes, it’s a real thing, and it’s something all homeowners and rental property owners need to be aware of.
Adverse possession is essentially the legal occupation of a non-owner who meets certain criteria in their occupancy of a vacant piece of property. These conditions vary from state to state, but typically include some version of the following.
- Occupation must be open – this means that the squatter must not try to shield their occupation from being discovered. While the squatter’s existence must not be kept secret, the landowner themselves do not have to be notified.
- Occupation must be exclusive – only the person trying to gain adverse possession can occupy the land.
- It must be hostile – the landowner cannot have given the occupant permission to use the land.
- It must be continuous – the person seeking adverse possession must occupy the land continuously, in accordance with its intended use (i.e. in the case of a summer home, occupation doesn’t have to continue through winter).
- Statutory period must be met – most states’ statutory periods before adverse possession can be validated run between 5 and 20 years.
While it’s certainly an unusual case that would involve a property being vacant long enough for adverse possession to take effect, it’s still something owners need to keep in mind so that they don’t have to deal with the hassleof trying to get a squatter out of their property.