Squatters rights and adverse possession are unfamiliar topics for many. But if you own a property that has sat vacant for several years you could run into problems with squatters. What’s worse, is in some cases, you can actually lose your property to squatters. Read on for everything you need to know about squatters rights and adverse possession.
What is a Squatter?
A squatter is defined as a person who unlawfully occupies an uninhabited building or unused land. This means that a person can take residence in your vacant home or vacant land without paying rent or a purchase price. They don’t have your permission to be on your property and oftentimes you won’t even know they are there unless you regularly visit your vacant land or home.
5 Signs of Squatters in Utah
Squatters are individuals who occupy a property without the owner’s permission or payment. In Utah, squatting on private property is illegal and warrants criminal prosecution. Property owners should be aware of the signs of squatters to take necessary action to remove them. Here are some indications that point out there is an official squatter issue in Utah:
1. Changes in utility usage
One of the most common signs of squatters is changes in utility usage. Property owners should look for utility bills suddenly appearing for a previously vacant property. This could indicate squatters occupying the property5.
2. Unauthorized entry
If you notice signs of forced entry or broken locks, it could be an indication of squatters. Squatters often break into vacant properties to occupy them.
3. Personal belongings
If you notice personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, or other items in the property, it could be an indication of squatters. Squatters often bring their personal belongings with them when they occupy a property1.
4. Neglected property
If you notice that the property is not being maintained or is in disrepair, it could be an indication of squatters. Squatters often neglect the property they occupy.
5. Refusal to leave
If you have asked someone to leave your property, and they refuse to do so, it could be an indication of squatters. Squatters often refuse to leave the property they occupy.
What is Squatters Rights
Squatters rights, also known as adverse possession, are legal protections afforded to people who have been occupying a property for an extended period of time without the owner’s permission or payment. Squatters rights allow a squatter to continue their use/occupation of a property in the event that the true owner or landlord does not take action within a certain time frame.
Why Do Squatters Have Rights?
Squatters have rights so that justice can be facilitated. The laws spell out the rights of each party involved to keep the real estate markets stable and negotiations peaceful. Squatters rights are similar to tenants’ rights that protect a renter from an unscrupulous landlord.
What’s the Difference Between Squatting and Trespassing?
Trespassing involves entering a property unlawfully, either for a moment or with the intention of lingering. Squatting, on the other hand, involves occupying a property without the owner’s permission or payment for an extended period of time.
Squatters Rights in Utah
In Utah, squatting on private property is illegal and warrants criminal prosecution. Property owners should be aware of the signs of squatters to take necessary action to remove them. If a squatter is occupying a property in Utah, the true owner or landlord can take legal action to remove them from the property. Squatters do not have rights in Utah, and the law is on the side of the property owner.
Different Types of Squatters
Traditionally you’ll come across three different types of squatters: Trespassers, Tenants at Will or Tenants at Sufferance and Land Claimers. When a person has trespassed onto your property, breaking into the home then they are considered a trespasser. These types of squatters can be found at homes that are noticeably vacant, such as a run down property with little sign of upkeep, or in a vacation property that isn’t lived in throughout the year.
A non-traditional type of squatter is the Tenants at Will or Sufferance. This situation is where you have leased or rented your property to the individuals, but now that the lease/rental agreement has expired they refuse to vacate the property or sign a new agreement.
Finally, land claimers are squatters who move onto your property in the hopes of gaining legal rights to take over your property through squatting. Believe it or not, according to certain adverse possession laws in Utah it may be possible for them to obtain ownership if they lived on the property for long enough.
What is Adverse Possession in the State of Utah?
According to Utah law the term “Adverse” usually means contrary to another person’s claim or interest in the property, so Adverse Possession is where a squatter can claim possession of your property contrary to your ownership. While you hold title but do not use or occupy your property, another person can come along and claim ownership by occupying the property and paying taxes on it.
In Utah, the occupation of the property must be apparent (not hidden) and a squatter can establish legal title that overcome your rights to the land if they possess and use the property for at least 7 years.
If a squatter can show that the land has been occupied by them for 7 continuous years and that they have paid all taxes on the property in that time then according to Utah Code they can be granted ownership of your property. If the claim on your property is based on a written instrument or a judgement purportedly giving title, then the possession can be established if the claimant does one of three things.
First, claimant cultivates crops or installs an improvement.
Second, encloses the property with a fence.
Or Third, uses the property for agricultural uses, pasture or for harvesting fuel or fencing timber.
Keep in mind that the person occupying the property and paying the taxes for those second years is only establishing a claim on the property. To clear the title and remove any competing claims that would need to be done through legal action, generally with the help of an attorney who specializes in land title actions.
The full code about adverse possession in the state of Utah can be found here.
4 Creative ways to get rid of squatters
As a real estate investor, I’ve encountered my fair share of dealing with squatters. It’s a frustrating and time-consuming problem, but there are a few creative ways to get rid of them.
1. Use public pressure.
One way to get squatters to leave is to put public pressure on them. This could involve putting up signs around your property or in the neighborhood, or even contacting the local media. If enough people know about the squatters, they’ll be more likely to leave out of embarrassment or fear of being caught.
2. Offer them a financial incentive.
Another way to get squatters to leave is to offer them a financial incentive. This could involve paying them to move out, or waiving rent if they agree to leave within a certain period of time. This can be a more effective way to get squatters to leave than simply serving them with an eviction notice, as they may be more willing to negotiate if they’re offered something in return.
3. Use social media.
Social media can also be a powerful tool for getting rid of squatters. You can post about the squatters on your own social media accounts, or even reach out to local news outlets and ask them to report on the story. This can put a lot of pressure on the squatters, and may even force them to leave.
4. Hire a professional.
If you’ve tried everything else and you’re still having trouble getting rid of squatters, you may need to hire a professional. There are companies that specialize in evicting squatters, and they may be able to help you get the squatters out of your property quickly and easily.
I’ve used all of these methods to get rid of squatters, and they’ve all been successful. So if you’re dealing with squatters, don’t give up. There are creative ways to get rid of them, and you don’t have to put up with them for long.
Here are some additional tips for getting rid of squatters:
- Document everything. Keep a detailed record of all your interactions with the squatters, including dates, times, and what was said. This will be helpful if you need to take legal action.
- Don’t try to evict the squatters yourself. This could put you in danger, and it could also make the eviction process more difficult.
- Be patient. It may take some time to get the squatters out of your property. Don’t give up, and keep working at it.
How to Avoid Squatters on your Vacant Property
If you’ve had to vacate property you own and have been unable to sell then you can take steps to avoid squatters on your property. Keep up-to-date with your property tax records and always pay on time. Ask trusted neighbors to keep an eye out for trespassers and notify you if they see any and post “no trespassing” signs on the property. If you notice trouble call the police and make a statement about the trespassers.
But what do you do if you are unable to keep up on the property taxes? Especially if it’s a property you could no longer afford to keep, forcing your move, or a property that isn’t in great condition but you have inherited? Often in these cases the best solution is to sell your property and be rid of the stress of owning vacant home or land that can become a prime target for squatters and vandalism and property tax issues. A non-traditional house buyer like Gary Buys Houses will buy a house or land in any condition and give you a fair cash offer.
If you decide to sell your home, reach out to a us. We are a non-traditional buyer and your top rated, local Utah house buying company! We will buy your house in any condition, saving you the fuss of worrying over your vacant property and paying property taxes while trusting you’ll get an honest and stress-free cash offer on your home.