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Resolving the Issue of Squatting

By Dez Duran-Lamanilao

Under the US law, landlords can evict squatters who live in their properties without an official lease. But before you decide on taking legal actions against them, it is equally important to have a basic understanding of their rights to determine the risks they pose and the best course of action available to you.

Under Alabama Code of Law (Section 6-5-200), squatters in Alabama can acquire legal title under the assumption that all of the following conditions have been met:

  • Hostile. They occupy the land without permission.
  • Actual. They have actual possession of the property.
  • Exclusive. They have sole physical occupancy of the land.
  • Open and Notorious. They publicly occupy the land for everyone to see.
  • Continuous. They have lived in the property for 10 consecutive years and have paid the corresponding taxes. Or if no taxes were paid, have occupied the land/home for more than 20 years.

Landlords can enforce their rights as a property owner by evicting squatters or reclassifying them as tenants so they no longer meet the hostile condition. This is what you call stopping an adverse possession. An adverse possession is the occupation and accompanying legal possession of land/property by a squatter or trespasser who fulfills certain occupation requirements.

Once a squatter is given the notice of eviction, he is usually left with no choice but to leave the premises. Here are additional steps to take to facilitate the eviction:

  • File an eviction action with the court or file a repossession claim and ask the court to establish clear ownership of the property.
  • Once you have established ownership, ask the concerned utility companies to stop their services but practice with caution so as not to ignite the ire of squatters. People who are cornered usually resort to dangerous actions.
  • Seek legal help from qualified professionals. Ask your lawyer about eviction protection. For property owners who choose this plan, the local office will pay for the eviction if it indeed becomes necessary.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.