Did you know that a squatter can become the legal owner of an abandoned home if they live there long enough? The Homestead Act of 1862 grants occupants permission to obtain ownership of a home if they meet certain requirements. The term “squatter” refers to an individual who occupies property that doesn’t belong to them without the owner’s knowledge.
If you are selling a home after it’s been abandoned for some time, things can get complicated—especially if it’s become the home to squatters. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about squatters’ rights in Texas.
How Can a Squatter Get Legal Rights to Your Property?
Do squatters have rights in Texas? Yes, they do. Once a squatter has uninterrupted access to your property, they can gain legal rights to it over time.
First, a squatter has to take over the property in what is known as a hostile occupation. There are three types of hostile occupation, including simple occupation, awareness of trespassing, and/or a good-faith mistake.
In some cases, the squatter doesn’t know that they are illegally inhabiting a property. How is this possible? If someone notices that a property is vacant, they can use it to their advantage to make some money. A prospective tenant might meet with this individual, sign a lease, and pay a security deposit before moving into the abandoned property.
Once they’ve established themselves in the house, they can work towards claiming it as their own. This is known as an adverse possession claim.
A squatter must prove that they are treating the property as if it were their own while they are living on the property. This means that they have been paying the property taxes and cleaning up the property through landscaping and home improvement.
The squatter must have lived on the property without any interruptions for 10 years. An adverse claim becomes null and void if the squatter leaves the property for weeks or months. It also becomes invalid if someone else is squatting in the home with them.
Tips for Deterring Unwanted Inhabitants
Removing squatters from your property can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you have to have to take your squatters to court. It can even throw a wrench in your ability to sell your home on your own timeline.
You can avoid dealing with squatters by making it obvious that you are looking out for your uninhabited properties. You can do this by stopping by the property regularly to perform inspections, hanging no trespassing signs around the property, and paying your property taxes on time.
If you are unable to physically inspect the property on a regular basis, you should ask someone you trust (or hire a property manager) to handle the inspections for you.
Squatters’ Rights in Texas
Now that you have a basic understanding of squatters’ rights in Texas, you can take the steps to protect your property from an intrusion. If squatters are living in a property that you are trying to sell, it can make the process more difficult.
When you’re ready to sell your home, even if it has squatters, we purchase homes with squatters in place. Contact us today to learn just how we can help you!