What is a Squatter?
A squatter is a person who is occupying someone else’s uninhabited property. These people have no legal ownership or title to the property, however, they can acquire this at some point.
What are Squatter’s Rights?
Squatter’s Rights, also known as Adverse Possession, allows a person to claim legal possession of your property. They can only do this if they have occupied your property for a certain amount of time and have met the conditions set out by Texas law. When a squatter claims legal possession of your property, they do not have to pay for it.
As you can see, it’s important to understand the relevant Texas laws to avoid facing a situation such as this. If you fail to file for eviction or contact the authorities, over time the squatter will no longer be considered a criminal trespasser. They will eventually gain rights to your property and be able to file a claim for it.
Keep in mind that self-eviction is illegal in Texas. You should observe the correct eviction procedures at all times during the legal dispute. This holds true even if you win the eviction suit. At no point can you attempt to evict a tenant by yourself.
What is the Squatters Law in Texas?
Squatters can file for legal ownership of your property by using the principles of adverse possession. Under Texas law, a squatter can make an adverse possession claim after possessing a property continuously for at least 10 years.
After the 10-year period has passed, the squatter is no longer considered a criminal trespasser. They can then file an adverse possession claim. If they do this successfully, the squatter will gain legal permission to remain on the property as its owner.
What is the Law of Adverse Possession for Squatters in Texas?
In Texas, a squatter needs to meet five legal requirements in order to make an adverse possession claim. We’ll go over each of these requirements in the following paragraphs.
Requirement 1: The Squatter has Hostile Possession of the Property
Within the context of an adverse possession claim, “hostile” does not indicate violence. It is simply a legal term that means the squatter has occupied the land.
Reasons for this occupation could be based on any of the following factors:
- The squatter is not aware they are trespassing.
- The squatter uses the property in good faith and does not know about its legal status.
- A squatter is aware of trespassing and intends to take legal possession of it.
Requirement 2: The Squatter has Exclusive Possession of the Property
To file an adverse possession claim, the squatter must not share the property with anyone else. This includes sharing it with tenants, owners, and/or strangers. If they are sharing the property, they do not have exclusive possession of the property.
Requirement 3: The Squatter must have Open & Notorious Possession of the Property
Having “open and notorious” possession of property implies that the squatter is public about their presence on the property. If the squatter is hiding their presence, they will not be able to make a valid adverse possession claim.
Requirement 4: The Squatter has Actual Possession of the Property
The squatter needs to be physically present on the property as an owner to file a claim for adverse possession. They must be able to prove by some means that they have actual possession of the property.
Requirement 5: A Squatter must have Continuous Possession of the Property
The state of Texas requires that the squatter has to live on the property for a series of uninterrupted years. The number of years depends on the particular circumstance of the squatter. If they have abandoned the property for months or years, they have not held continuous possession of it and therefore cannot file a claim for adverse possession.
After three continuous years of living on the property, the squatter can establish “Color of Title”. “Color of Title” is proof that the squatter has gained ownership of the property via irregular means (such as a title defect) or conveyances. Once they have established “Color of Title”, they can file an adverse possession claim.
After five continuous years of living on the property, the squatter can also file an adverse possession claim if they have proof that they have maintained or cultivated the land and paid property taxes.
After ten continuous years, the squatter can file an adverse possession claim without “Color of Title” or paying property taxes. However, they can only do this if they have met all the other requirements for filing an adverse possession claim.
How to Prevent Squatters
As a landlord or property owner, there are ways that you can prevent squatters on your property. The following are four steps you can take to prevent squatters from making a claim to your property:
Step 1: Take action to secure your property. Lock all the windows and doors and block all the property’s entrances.
Step 2: Set up “No Trespassing” signs for any unoccupied properties that you have.
Step 3: Serve any squatters you find with proper written notices immediately after detecting their entry.
Step 4: Pay the property taxes on time and don’t let anyone else pay them for you.
How Do I Evict a Squatter in Texas?
It is illegal in Texas for you to forcibly remove a squatter from your property. Instead, you need to follow the regular judicial eviction process to remove them and regain possession of your property. Removal of a squatter is only legal when conducted by a law enforcement officer with a valid court order.
Start by serving the squatter on your property with a 3-Day Notice to Vacate. You can use this notice in case the squatter (or a tenant) has failed to make the necessary rent payments to live on your property. If the three days pass without any resolve, you can file an eviction lawsuit with your county’s court.
On average, an eviction lawsuit takes around 2-3 weeks to reach a resolution. The squatter does have the legal means to oppose the eviction., but it’s unlikely that the court would rule against you if the squatter holds no valid claim to the property.
If a squatter vacates or is eventually evicted, they may leave behind some personal items. As the property owner, you have to inventory their personal property and store any valuable items. Then you must serve them another written notice to retrieve their property within a reasonable time period, such as thirty days.
When this reasonable time period ends, and the squatter has failed to show up and retrieve their possessions, the property is now considered legally abandoned. In this case, you can discard these items on your own terms.
Do You Need Help Dealing with Squatters and the Texas Adverse Possession Law?
Dealing with squatters in your home and their adverse possession claims can be tiring and stressful. At OmniKey Realty, we are knowledgeable about the details of Texas laws regarding squatters and their rights. Caring for your property investment and filling your rental with quality tenants is our top priority.
We’ll ensure that no squatters reside on your property at any time, protecting your asset from any attempt at an adverse possession claim. Give us a call today at (833) 666-4539 to get started with our services today.
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in Texas. As laws frequently change, this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.