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What do squatters’ rights mean for landowners?

It is unlawful for a person to enter a private property without explicit or implicit permission from the land or property owner. However, there are some rules that mean if a person commits the act of trespassing many times, or stays at a property or on a piece of land that they are trespassing on for an extended period of time, they have some rights to do so. This is known colloquially as "squatters' rights."

Squatters' rights are usually referred to under the law as "adverse possession." The rights given to a trespasser usually depend on the amount of time they have been using and perhaps living on the land or in the property. The rights can mean that the trespasser is able to continue use of the land while they may also be required to pay taxes and other related charges in regard to the property.

In order for a trespasser to be able to claim these rights, they must be able to qualify in four different categories. They must be occupying the land without permission one way or the other. If written permission has already been granted then adverse permission can never be claimed. They must also be treating the land or property that they are occupying as though it is their own, whether it is a genuine mistake or not. It must also be made obvious, rather than being done so in secret, and continuous over an extended period of time.

As a land or property owner, you may be vulnerable to an adverse possession claim if you have not given written permission to someone who is using your property. An attorney can provide more information on your legal options in such a situation.

Source: Findlaw, "adverse possession continuous trespassers rights," accessed Oct. 04, 2017

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