The ABCs of Adverse Possession: Navigating Squatters’ Rights

We’ve all heard stories of people living in abandoned buildings or vacant lots for years without paying rent. Some might call these people squatters, but in legal terms, they could have a valid claim to the property through adverse possession. Adverse possession is a legal concept that allows someone who has been using and occupying property without permission to claim ownership of that property after a certain amount of time. But how does adverse possession work, and is it legal? In this primer, we’ll explore the secrets of why do squatters have rightsand the ins and outs of adverse possession.

To claim adverse possession, a squatter must meet certain legal requirements. These vary from state to state, but most jurisdictions require the squatter to have openly and continuously occupied the property for a certain period of time, usually between 5-20 years. The squatter must also have used the property as their own, meaning they have maintained and improved it, paid property taxes, and excluded others from using it. Additionally, the squatter must have possessed the property without the owner’s permission or knowledge, and without any agreement or contract.

The legal requirements for adverse possession are intended to protect property owners from losing their property without their knowledge or consent. However, in some cases, property owners may actually be aiding squatters in their claims to adverse possession. For example, if a property owner abandons their property and doesn’t maintain it or pay property taxes, they may be seen as “encouraging” adverse possession. In other cases, property owners may not realize that someone is occupying their property, especially if it’s a vacant lot or an abandoned building.

If a squatter can meet the legal requirements for adverse possession and successfully claim the property, they will be considered the legal owner. The former property owner will lose all rights to the property, including the right to enter or use it. However, adverse possession claims can still be challenged in court, especially if there is evidence of fraud, mistake, or wrongful conduct on the part of the squatter. Property owners may also be able to prevent adverse possession by taking legal action against squatters as soon as they become aware of them.


Unlocking the secrets of squatters’ rights and adverse possession can be a complex and sometimes controversial topic. While adverse possession laws exist to protect property owners from losing their property without their knowledge, they also provide a legal avenue for squatters to claim ownership of abandoned or neglected properties. As a property owner, it’s important to stay informed about your state’s laws and take action as soon as you become aware of squatters occupying your property. With a clear understanding of the legal requirements and potential challenges of adverse possession, you can protect your property rights and avoid any surprises in the future.