SQUATTERS

Squatting is a pretty simple concept. It’s setting up camp on a parcel of land or moving into an abandoned or unused dwelling. (However, moving into a house that has a family still living there is considered home invasion, not squatting.)

 

SQUATTERS

Squatting is a pretty simple concept. It’s setting up camp on a parcel of land or moving into an abandoned or unused dwelling. (However, moving into a house that has a family still living there is considered home invasion, not squatting.)

The homeless may take refuge in an abandoned home for a few nights — or years. Some people use squatting to make a political statement about the economic gap between the rich and poor. To others, squatting simply represents a way to buck authority. Even a house-guest who won’t leave and a tenant who continues to stay past the expiration date of a lease both qualify as squatters.

The key to squatting successfully lies in the tenant’s rights. States grant rights to people who live in a home but do not own it. This protects tenants from being kicked out without notice from a landlord. In most states, tenant rights are extended to anyone living in a home for period of time — usually 30 days. Squatters exploit these rights to stay in a home as long as possible. By setting up housekeeping, like making repairs, adding some curtains, and settling into the home in a generally respectable manner, the appearance of tenants’ rights can be established.

In time, squatters can actually earn ownership of the dwelling. There’s a legal precedent in most of the United States called adverse possession. This doctrine says that if a squatter lives “openly, continuously and hostilely” in a home for a prescribed number of years, he or she can become the owner. This applies to property that’s vacant and where property taxes aren’t being paid. The three criteria that must be met are making no attempts to hide the inhabitation (open), living in the dwelling continuously and without permission (hostile). If the squatter pays property taxes on the home, when the time limit is reached, he or she is considered the owner.

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