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What is a Squatter? Everything You Need to Know About Squatters’ Rights And More

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BY DFW PROFESSIONAL HOME BUYERS

Squatters can be a common and pesky issue for landlords in Texas. This article will cover squatters, their rights, and how to reclaim your sanity!

An image to a guide that describes squatters and squatters rights in Texas

Contents

What is a squatter?

Squatting is when an individual or group of individuals occupy a property illegally. Squatting is a serious ethical gray area. It’s reprehensible that someone would break the law and trespass in a property they do not own or rent. Squatters are likely in serious financial straits or other socio-economic perils.

Trespassers

Individuals who trespass onto the property, break-and-enter into the home, and then take up residence can be considered squatters. These types of squatters may target vacation homes or other types of property where the owner doesn’t live nearby.

Tenants at Will or Tenants at Sufferance

Tenants at Will or Tenants at Sufferance are not typical squatters. The property owners know these individuals are living in their property. The tenants may have had a lease, but it expired, and now they refuse to leave or sign a new lease. This type of squatting sometimes is called the “worn-out-welcome”.

Land Claimers

Land claimers are squatters that attempt to take over property by squatting. If a certain amount of time passes, they could obtain ownership of the property through adverse possession.

Common Signs of Squatters

There are a few common signs of squatters, that are not limited to the following:

 

  • You saw people move to a property and yet you never saw a moving truck
  • The offending party “forgot” to remove the for sale sign from the property
  • You see alternative forms of lighting in the home, and also a lot of water jugs, because squatters don’t have access to utilities
  • On that same note, an enormous amount of trash on a property piles up, along with other unhygienic signs because squatters also don’t have a trash service

Is Squatting Legal?

The answer is complicated, and falls under the complexity of property law, and frankly it varies from state to state. Property rights in the United States are sacred, and these rights are what makes this country great. In the world of real estate, tenants have 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 a period of time, roughly 30 days. Unfortunately, squatters exploit these property rights and this helps them to stay in an essentially stolen property for as long as possible. If squatters manage to do some basic housekeeping, and invest some money in repairs, they could be granted some general property rights. 

What are squatters rights in Texas?

Squatters’ rights in Texas could be different than in other states. NOLO states, “As a general rule in Texas, one’s ownership of land must be in writing to be enforceable.” In certain parts of the country, a verbal claim may hold weight. However, squatters’ rights in Texas are less lenient.

 

In some states, adverse possession begins once the individual has inhabited the land for a certain period of time. In Texas, the situation is  more complicated. Instead of having one time frame required to establish squatter’s rights, Texas has different requirements for different circumstances.

 

If you do not know your rights as a landlord and how to protect them, you put your property at risk of being claimed by someone. This caution is especially important for landlords living outside of Texas to understand since they might be less familiar with Texas real estate laws than property owners that live locally. When you are close to your property, you are more likely to see the warning signs of a potential squatter.

Why do squatters have rights?

Squatters rights formed in the United States as residents of larger cities (like New York City) looked for protection and affordable housing. This movement influenced displaced people to claim and fix up abandoned spaces to live in without owning any of the property.

Are squatters entitled to a pre-eviction notice?

Squatters are essentially entitled to a pre-eviction notice but it varies by state. For example, in Texas, squatters must be removed through the forcible entry and detainer laws set-forth in Chapter 24 of the Texas Property Code. Virtually all occupants are entitled to notice to vacate prior to a landlord filing an eviction suit.

Can Police Remove Squatters?

It all depends. If a property owner is on site and is the one who called the police, then generally yes they can and will. The police can remove trespassers immediately. However, they can’t remove squatters if they appear to be established in a property, and nobody claims the property

How Do I Evict Squatters in Texas?

It is illegal in Texas to forcibly remove a squatter from your property. To do so legally, you must file an eviction against the squatter in the same manner you would evict a tenant for not paying rent.

What is Adverse Possession?

In some surprising cases, squatters could earn a form of ownership of a property. There is a serious legal protection in the United States called adverse possession. This legal article grants that if a squatter lives openly, continuously and hostilely in a home for a certain number of years, they could  become the owner. Adverse possession is applicable to property that’s vacant and where property taxes aren’t being paid. 


The 3 criteria that must be met are making no attempts to hide the inhabitation of the possessed property,  living in the place consistently, and without permission to be there. If the squatter pays property taxes on the home, when the particular time limit is reached, they are considered the owner. In Texas, the statute for adverse possession is: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.021. In Texas, a squatter must possess the property continuously for a period of 5- 10 years before they can make an adverse possession claim.

Adverse Possession in Texas

  • Hostile (against the right of the true owner and without permission)
  • Actual (exercising control over the property)
  • Exclusive (in the possession of the trespasser alone)
  • Open and notorious (using the property as the real owner would, without hiding his or her occupancy), and
  • Continuous for the statutory period.

Ways to Prevent Squatters?

Dealing with squatters could be scary. How could you do your part to limit your interaction with them but help your community if you spot one?

 

  • Identify the vacant property on your street.
  • Write down the contact information for the owner or realtor when the “For Sale” or “For Rent” sign is posted.
  • Make sure your neighbors know about the vacant house and share the owner/realtor contact information. Social media, NextDoor app, WhatsApp, texting, and email are great ways to spread this information.
  •  If you see something, say something: contact the owner/realtor if you see anyone move into the house in order to confirm if they are supposed to be there 
  • If you see any trespassers or burglars, call the Sheriff’s Station and provide the owner/realtor contact information to any police officers that respond.

Ways to Prevent Adverse Possession?

  • Display a number of “no trespassing” signs throughout the property, and secure entrances with gates. However in many states “no trespassing” signs or security measures won’t protect against a claim by a trespasser who takes possession of the land.
  • Give written permission to someone to use your land, and get their written acknowledgement. For example, allow someone to park in the property.
  • You may offer to rent the property to the trespasser.
  • Call the police and ask for help.
  • Hire a lawyer as soon as possible. A  lawsuit to eject the trespasser from the landlord is essential.  Also  obtain a court to order a structure removed from your property. You must act before the trespasser has been on your land long enough, under your state’s law, to make a successful adverse possession claim.

What if I Just Don’t Want to Deal With Squatters?

If you are tired of dealing with squatters and want to move on from the hassle of eviction, you can sell your house fast to DFW Professional Home Buyers! We will pay you in cash through a reputable Title company. Reclaim your life while we help you with your real estate problems fast!

Get Your Risk-Free Offer Now!

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