A squatter is someone who lives on a property to which they have no title, no rights, and/or no lease. But despite this fact, squatters have protections under federal and state laws.
Under the Texas squatters’ rights, a squatter can legally own property through adverse means. That’s why it’s essential for property owners to familiarize themselves with squatters’ rights in Texas to prevent losing their properties and investments.
What Rights Do Squatters have in Texas? Here is a Guide:
A squatter seeking adverse possession must meet specific requirements in Texas and other states. The requirements are as follows:
The Squatter Must Physically Possess the Property
Under the Actual Possession doctrine, a squatter seeking adverse possession must have a physical presence at the property. In addition to that, they must treat the property like the actual owner would. An example of actual possession is beautification efforts, such as landscaping and fencing.
The Squatter Must Make it Obvious that They are Living on the Property
For a squatter to make an adverse possession claim, they must be able to fulfill the ‘Open & Notorious’ requirement. This simply requires a squatter to prove that they haven’t been hiding their occupation. The occupation must be obvious so much so that even the landowner should know of their occupation.
The Squatter Must Prove Exclusivity in their Possession
Here, the squatter must be able to show that they have occupied the property exclusively. Sharing it with others would render their adverse possession claim invalid.
The Squatter Must not have Permission to Occupy the Land
Squatters’ laws in Texas also require squatters to fulfill the ‘Hostile Claim’ requirement. Hostile, in relation to adverse possession claims, doesn’t mean malice or ill will. It simply means that the squatter doesn’t have to know that the property belongs to someone else.
The Squatter Must Reside on the Property for a Continuous Period
Texas has several different minimum time periods that a squatter must meet in order to claim adverse possession, they are as follows:
- Minimum of 3 years - Here, the squatter must have "color of title" and prove that they have occupied the property for at least 3 years.
- 5 years - This requires that a squatter pay property taxes for 5 years and reside on the property for a similar period.
- 10 years - Without color of title and paying taxes, a squatter must reside on the unit for a minimum of 10 years.
The period of occupancy, whether 3, 5, or 10, must be uninterrupted. Note that ‘Color of title’ simply means irregular property ownership. The ‘owner’ may be missing one or more of the required documents required for legal ownership.
How to Prevent Squatters from Entering Your Rental Property
Prevention of the problem is better than dealing with it after the fact. The following are steps that can help protect your Texas rental property while it’s vacant:
- Visit your vacant property regularly. During these visits, make sure to clear collect mail, and clean up the yard. This will make the property look cared for even if empty, thus deterring unwanted occupancy.
- Cut off all amenities. This will make your property uninhabitable, discouraging squatters from occupying it.
- Ask your neighbors to be vigilant and report to you any suspicious activity.
- Ensure that entry points are inaccessible . A squatter can claim legal rights if they entered open or previously compromised entry points.
- Consider taking your property’s security up a notch by investing in intruder alarms and security cameras.
- Make sure the property’s perimeter is secure. Consider adding gates or fencing.
- Hire a professional residential property management company to help you find a tenant for your vacant property. A good property management company can also help you manage tenants once they’ve signed the lease agreement.
How do You Get Rid of Squatters in the State of Texas
Texas doesn’t have any specific laws regarding the removal of squatters from your property. This, therefore, leaves you with one option: the judicial eviction process.
The eviction process must begin with serving the squatter an eviction notice. There are several eviction notices to choose from in Texas depending on the situation. They include:
3-Day Notice to Quit.
This is meant for tenants (or squatters) who refuse to make their rent payments when it’s due. Some states give the squatter time to pay the rent owned in order to continue living on the property, but Texas isn’t one of these states. If the squatter doesn’t pay all the rent due within the 3 days period, you may proceed with the eviction.
7 to 30-Day Notice to Quit
Texas also allows landlords to evict a tenant that continues to live on the rented premises without having an active lease. The notice period to give them depends on the type of tenancy in operation. Types of tenancies include week-to-week, month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, and yearly-to-yearly.
3-Day Notice to Quit
You should serve this to a squatter or tenant that commits an illegal activity.
Since the squatter won’t have a good defense to remain on the property, the judgment will most likely be in your favor. The court will then issue you a writ of possession. This will be the squatter’s last notice to vacate the unit. They will have 24 hours to move out before the sheriff can remove them.
There you have it, a general overview of squatter's rights and measures to take to protect your property! You should also familiarize yourself with the states landlord-tenant laws , security deposit law and rent increase policies.
At Rollingwood Management, Inc. , we’re well-versed in Texas laws. If you are facing a squatter problem, get in touch with us to learn more. We also offer full-service property management solutions to ensure that your rental business runs smoothly! In our 36 plus year of Austin property management, a squatter has never moved into any of our properties.
Disclaimer: Laws a subject to change so this post may not be up-to-date at the time of your reading it and therefore should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need legal assistance, please contact a licensed attorney.