You Could Lose Your Home To A Squatter If You’re Not Careful
Have you ever heard of what is commonly known as a “squatter?” The term “squatter” is used to describes someone who finds property, lives there, and treats it like their own, even though they shouldn’t be living there.
Squatters and Adverse Possession
While we may think of squatters as people who are homeless and living in abandoned buildings, there can be other kinds of squatters as well. Someone living in someone else’s vacation home without the owners knowing they are there is an example of a squatter.
Legally referred to as “adverse possession”, squatting is defined as someone who occupies a property without permission. However, adverse possession isn’t as easy to prove as many may assume. Someone living in your basement without your knowledge while you are away for a few months likely won’t have a claim on your property.
But adverse possession does happen, so it’s probably a good idea to know how it happens and how to avoid it from happening.
Requirements for Adverse Possession
Adverse possession will happen when someone moves into or lives in property for a period of 7 years or more.
During that time, the possessor must have improved the property–usually, that means fixing it up or repairing things. The possessor must have acted like the property was theirs, including financially. That means payment of things like maintenance costs, taxes, or homeowners association dues that were or may become due on the property.
It generally doesn’t matter why the possessor is there. Someone could be there and meet the requirements above accidentally, under a mistaken belief that they own the property, or the person can be aware that he or she doesn’t have any ownership in the property.
Another requirement is that the possessor must be physically present on the property, living there continuously. The possessor cannot be “hiding,” that is, the possessor must be out in the open, living there the way anybody would, and not secretly sneaking in and out under the cover of darkness so as not to be discovered.
Is it Right?
Many people see adverse possession as a legal form of stealing property from the rightful, legal owner. Others see it as a way to keep property improved upon, especially when it gets to be 7 years or more, when it may be reasonable to consider property abandoned if the rightful owner isn’t there for that period of time.
As you can see, adverse possession requires more than sneaking into an abandoned home’s garage and sleeping there for 7 years. But adverse possession does happen. A rightful owner who, for any reason, isn’t aware of the possessor, and comes back to property after the 7 years or more, may have to file a lawsuit to get rid of the possessor. This lawsuit is one that the possessor may well win, if he or she meets the requirements.
Questions about real estate or property law? Contact the Tampa real estate lawyers at the Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A.