As a property owner, do you know about squatting laws in Texas?
As sad as it may sound, a squatter can legally dispossess you of your New Braunfels property. Texas squatters have rights. Therefore, as a New Braunfels property owner, it's important to familiarize yourself with the statewide law on squatters' rights.
Here is are some frequently asked questions regarding squatters' rights:
Who is Considered a Squatter in Texas?
A squatter is someone who occupies someone else's property without their permission, and has no obligation to pay rent.
If squatters stay long enough, and the owner does nothing about it, the squatter could end up owning that property. This is called adverse possession.
What is the Difference Between a Squatter and a Trespasser?
There are two major differences between squatting and a trespassing.
- Squatting is usually civil in nature, while trespassing is a criminal offense.
- A squatter occupies a property with the intention of owning it. This isn't the case a trespasser.
What Rights Do Texas Squatters Enjoy?
First and foremost, a New Braunfels squatter has a right to own a real estate property if they make an adverse possession claim. They also have a legal right to continue living on the property if they haven't been evicted.
Evicting a squatter from a property can be challenging because you can't simply call the police on them. In fact, law enforcement likely won't get involved as squatting isn't regarded as a crime.
That's why you should employ preventative measures to stop a squatter in the first place.
Is a Holdover Tenant Considered a Trespasser or a Squatter?
A lease or a rental agreement lasts for a certain period of time. When that time runs out, a tenant is required to vacate the rental premises or renew their lease with the permission of the landlord.
While some tenants will take either of the two options, others won't. A tenant may choose to extend their stay without signing a lease. In other words, the tenant will be staying at your 'will'. So, you can evict them at any time you wish.
If you do evict the tenant and they refuse to leave, the tenant automatically becomes a trespasser.
What Does the Term "Adverse Possession" Mean?
Adverse possession in Texas is the means through which a squatter can gain legal ownership of a real estate property. For a squatter to qualify for an adverse possession claim, they must meet certain requirements. For example, they must have stayed on the property for a period of 10 uninterrupted years.
What Does "Color of Title" Mean?
In property law, "color of title" means improper property ownership. In other words, it means that the person making the legal claim to a property may be missing at least one of the required documents.
In Braunfels, for a squatter to qualify for an adverse possession claim, they must have color of title for 3 of the required 10 years.
What Requirements Must Squatters in Texas Meet Before Owning a Property Adversely?
A squatter needs to meet certain requirements before they can make an adverse possession claim and gain legal ownership of the Texas property.
The requirements are as follows:
- The squatter has to be able to show proof that they are treating the property like their own. They can show documentation that proves landscaping and other beautification efforts have been carried out.
- The squatter must live on the property continuously for at least 10 years. "Continuously" means the 10 year period must not be interrupted at any point. Even leaving for a week could invalidate their adverse possession claim.
- For a successful adverse possession claim, squatters need to occupy a property exclusively. Sharing it with others would invalidate their claim to the property.
- The squatter must make it obvious to anyone that they are indeed living on the property. If they try to hide that fact, their claim on the property would likely be invalidated.
- The squatter must make a hostile claim. In property law, the term "hostile" can be defined in three different ways.
- "Hostile" can be defined as "Simple Occupation" which essentially states that the squatter doesn't have to be aware that they are living on someone else's property.
- "Hostile" can be defined as "Awareness of Trespassing." With this definition, a squatter is required to know that they are indeed occupying someone else's property.
- "Hostile" can be defined as a "Good Faith Mistake." This assumes that the squatter is simply relying on an incorrect deed to live on the property.
- The squatter must be paying property taxes. If a squatter pays property taxes, has color of title, and makes improvements to the property, they would only need to occupy the property continuously for 5 years.
If a squatter meets all these requirements, they can make an adverse possession claim.
How Do You Remove a Squatter From Your Property?
No special laws exist to get rid of a squatter from a property. To remove a squatter from your property, you'll need to go through the state's eviction process.
This usually involves:
- Serving the squatter with an eviction notice.
- Filing for a complaint and summons.
- Going through the hearing process.
- Getting the Writ of Restitution.
How Do You Keep Your Property Safe from Squatters in Texas?
When it comes to squatters, prevention is best way to protect your property.
Here are some tips to help safeguard your Braunfels property from unwanted strangers.
- Have it inspected on a regular basis.
- Always ensure you are paying property taxes.
- Have the property's entrances blocked.
- If the property isn't occupied, place "No Trespassing" signs throughout the property.
- Hire a qualified property management company to help you find qualified tenants to occupy it.
- Begin the judicial eviction process as soon as you realize there is a squatter living there.
For more information, contact Limestone Country Properties, and check out our article on the Texas landlord-tenant laws!
Disclaimer: This information about squatters rights in Texas is only intended to be educational and not a substitute for professional legal help. If you require more help or information, seek legal advice from a qualified attorney who knows the law. An experienced property management company may also be able to help you with legal advice.