A squatter is someone who lives in a property they don’t own or rent. It sounds illegal as if they’re breaking and entering or trespassing. For a claim to count as trespassing, the squatter needs to know they’re unwelcome, either because the owner told them or there were no trespassing signs on the property.
The land in question is typically vacant property, so the owner might not keep close tabs on anyone coming and going. If the owner doesn’t know someone lives in the house, they can’t tell them to leave. Many squatters can take up residence for years without detection. If you can’t prove a squatter trespassed, it’s not a criminal offense, and it will go to civil court.
Some squatters claim ownership using fake documents, while others have the law on their side. If a squatter lives on your property for a certain time, Texas law grants them rights. Those who can show they took steps to beautify the property or paid taxes have even more of a claim.
Understanding squatters’ rights in Texas will prepare you for anything that might arise in a civil case regarding squatting.
Squatters Rights in Texas
It seems strange that squatters have rights in Texas, but the state considers the case from all angles. If a property owner doesn’t realize someone is living in their home, they most likely aren’t caring for the property. Letting a property deteriorate negatively impacts the community. If a squatter takes care of the property, the court is more likely to vote in their favor.
Some squatters have a document called “color of title.” This document looks like a legal property title but isn’t valid for one reason or another. The title might not meet local real estate standards or have a mistake in the documentation.
Regardless of how the squatter came to the property, they have certain rights while living there. As a property owner, you can’t change the locks so the squatter can’t get in. You can’t turn off utilities to make the house inhospitable. You also can’t physically force the squatter to leave. Owners must always give written notice to the squatter so they have time to take action.
If you don’t want to worry about squatters’ rights and the legal processes you need to follow, contact us. We buy homes in Texas, so you don’t have to worry about your property sitting unattended.
Laws Around Squatting in Texas
Squatters might not have legal rights regarding your property, but it’s possible they can get it. An adverse possession claim allows squatters who lived on the property for years to claim ownership.
There are three different periods of continuous possession that apply to squatters:
- Three years with a color of title
- Five years of improving the land and paying property taxes
- Ten years of beautifying a property less than 160 acres
The squatter must prove other claims to meet the requirements of adverse possession laws. They must honestly think they owned the property and show they have been treating the house as if they owned it. The squatter needs to act as if they live there—openly walking in and out of the front door, not waiting until darkness to crawl in a window.
Squatters need to prove continuous residence of the property before filing an adverse possession claim. They can’t use it for a few nights before moving on, then come back months later. That type of residency will most likely factor in trespassing with the courts, and they’ll dismiss the adverse possession claim.
People who want someone to buy my house in San Antonio can benefit from quickly selling the investment property. Having a company purchase the house means your name isn’t on the title, and you don’t have to worry about squatters. You’ll know that property management will check in regularly to ensure no one is squatting there.
Can You Get Rid of Squatters in Texas?
Yes, you can take steps to get rid of squatters in Texas, but you can’t forcibly remove them. Everything you do must be legal, so the squatter can’t establish more of a claim on your property. Taking matters into your own hands opens you up to lawsuits from the squatter.
Local law enforcement can’t help you with squatters, either. Squatting is a matter within the sheriff’s jurisdiction. Local police only handle criminal trespassers, and, as previously established, there’s nothing criminal about squatting.
There are no specific laws regarding the removal of a squatter or holdover tenant, so you need to tread carefully. It’s best to follow the standard Texas eviction policy to legally get rid of squatters.
The courts consider the state of the community just as much as the legal ownership of the property. If you’ve noticed the squatter committing illegal activity, take note of their actions. Go ahead and serve them with a three-day eviction notice to leave and gather all your documentation for court.
The cost of selling a house is preferable to paying legal fees for the eviction process. You’ll get your name off the property and possibly make a profit, so you don’t have to worry about possible squatters.
How To Remove Squatters From Your House in Texas
If you find there are squatters in your Texas property, you can take steps to remove them.
First, you can post a written notice. Tell the squatter that you’re the owner of the property and they aren’t welcome in the house. Ask them to move out. This disclaimer serves as proof that you have possession of the property and gives them the awareness of trespassing.
In your written notice, you can also specify that the squatter hasn’t paid rent. This notification gives them three days to leave the property since they don’t pay you to live there.
Another option is to offer the squatter a lease agreement. It might seem strange to do since they were originally trespassing, but they need somewhere to live, and you own the property. Giving them a lease would turn them from a squatter into a tenant. Legally, you would still own the rental property, and they’d have no claim to it.
One of the issues of tired landlords is if your squatter is a former tenant who refuses to leave, you can serve them with an End of Lease notification. If the tenancy has already expired, you can use the same three-day notice about non-payment as mentioned above. For weekly tenants, you can give them a seven-day notice. Monthly tenants get a 30-day notice.
Even giving written notice might not push the squatter to leave. In those cases, you can evict them. You have to go through Texas courts for the eviction process. It’s best to hire an experienced attorney for legal advice. A lawyer will help prove you’re the actual owner. You’ll have to prove that the squatters have no legal rights to the house.
When the court rules in your favor, they’ll grant a Writ of Possession that gives the squatter 24 hours to leave. If they don’t vacate the property, a sheriff will remove them. You should never force the squatter to leave yourself, either using force, changing the locks, or stopping utility service. These moves are illegal, and the squatter can file a lawsuit against you.
Finding companies that buy houses in Live Oak can help you get away from this problem. If you don’t own the house anymore, you don’t have to worry about squatters.
Understanding squatters’ rights can help you protect your property in the state of Texas. Selling your house fast is the best way to prevent this type of problem. You can rest easy knowing your former home has a legal owner and isn’t at risk of squatters.