Attempting to own a house by squatting in a property to gain legal ownership is increasingly becoming more popular in these tough economic times with more than 7 million homeowners who have been kicked out of their homes as a result of the foreclosure crisis.
Gaining legal title to a home by adverse possession is legal in all 50 U.S. states, but it takes guts and a complete legal understanding of the laws in each state. Adverse possession is the entitlement of real estate against the current owner’s will, and can take as long as 60 years in New Jersey, which has the longest duration to ownership to as short a period as two years in Arizona, the lowest for any state.
Most states time periods for continuous residency of a home vary from 7 to 15 years. Squatters occupy a home or dwelling that they don’t have legal title to and without the owner’s permission such as a lease or rental agreement. Conventionally, squatters have been homeless people lacking the income or financial means to rent or purchase a home or condo. But a new economy has infused new dimensions into society, increasing squatting, especially among the more than 14-million unemployed Americans.
In his book “A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World,” author Robert Newwirth estimates there are 1 billion squatters across the world, many of whom are never known by neighbors in residential neighborhoods for being squatters. Squatters also include former tenants who refuse to vacate a residence even after being served with eviction notices. In those cases, landlords need to enforce the evictions with forced legal evictions by local sheriffs or marshal deputies.
The majority of squatters live in less desirable communities across the world, including tenements and ghettos. In an online talk, Newwirth estimated that by 2050 1 in 3 residents living in shelters will be squatters across the world.
In the U.S. different state laws control squatters’ rights, but in some states like Florida after 30 days in possession of a home or other real estate, including land squatters cannot be forcibly removed except through the formal eviction legal process. Banks and mortgage companies routinely handle squatting cases through attorneys specializing in foreclosures and adverse possession.
All states require that squatters maintain continuous possession of the property, pay any and all taxes due on the real estate to state and county entities during the duration of the stay and maintain a hostile residency of the home or property in order to eventually obtain legal ownership.
After possession of the property for the number of years required in each state, most require the tenant to make a claim of title to seek a legal decree or judgment of the property to gain full legal ownership rights and interests.