Squatting is when someone occupies someone else’s property without their permission. It sounds illegal, but you’d be surprised to find out that it is, to some extent, legal.
This should not be confused with trespassing. Trespassing is when someone intentionally invades someone’s property without their consent. What’s the difference? A squatter does this with the intention of making the property theirs.
This post will break down exactly what a squatter is, as well as uncover Squatter Rights in Indiana.
Who are squatters?
Squatters aren’t necessarily homeless people. You’d be surprised to find out that you could have a squatter rights issue with your neighbor!
This happens when there is a boundary dispute where the invading party is termed as the squatter.
Real-estate or handover residents might also occupy someone’s property as a result of a conflict with the owner.
Non-governmental and for-profit organizations are also notorious for settling squatters on someone else's land.
property to provide them with a home.
It is also not uncommon for someone to be conned into buying your piece of land with falsified documents.
Why is squatting legal?
You are wondering why it is allowed for someone to claim your property, something you have worked to acquire, and they do so freely.
Well, this comes for a few reasons:
- The government encourages the utilization of property and land.
- The government requires property owners to pay for the necessary maintenance and utility fees apart from taxes.
- Therefore, if a house is unoccupied, legally through the Homestead Act of 1862, someone is allowed to claim someone’s property.
This, however, isn’t as simple as it sounds as there are requirements to be met for this to be successful.
What Are Squatter Rights In Indiana
As much as you’d want to take action on someone you’ve found on your property, there is a legal process that has to be followed.
Through the adverse possession claim, the state of Indiana allows a squatter to own someone’s property.
The adverse possession claim concept
A squatter is able to claim the piece of property after a period of time. In Indiana, this time comes after a period of 10 years. After this period, the squatter legally becomes the owner of the property and not a trespasser.
Indiana is strict on adverse possession laws compared to other states in terms of how the squatter and landowner go about the matter.
However, there are requirements to be met before an adverse possession claim can be made. The squatter’s possession must be:
- Open and well-known
A squatter has the right to prove to the court that they own the property even if the owner is back on the property.
The person claiming the property is required to be on the property for the continuous period of time stated by the law. This period of time is 10 years in the state of Indiana.
They cannot leave the property, for example, for a few months and then come back to claim it.
When it comes to adverse possession through a hostile claim, the term "hostile" has a different meaning.
Hostile possession in this case has three definitions instead of dangerous or violent.
The state requires the person claiming the land to publicly express their presence. This can be in terms of landscaping and house renovation.
They are required to treat it as if it were theirs. This applies to neighbors in the case where one may have made improvements to the other’s property.
The squatter claiming the property should be exclusive. This means that they cannot share the property with anyone else, including other squatters, tenants, or even the owner.
Open and well-known possession
The squatter's stay should not be secret. Their presence should be known to the public and may include the owner, who may try to get back onto the property.
When are adverse possession claims invalid?
The fact that the law also works in favor of squatters doesn’t necessarily mean they can use this card all the time.
There are a few exceptions to the adverse possession claims.
A squatter cannot move into government-owned land and claim ownership, as this is illegal anyway.
Trespassing onto government property does more harm than good eventually.
Your close cousin cannot claim your property even after they stay there for 10 years and meet all the requirements.
The law excludes relatives because it is assumed that they are there with the owner’s permission. This is against the exclusive possession claim.
These are tenants that do not leave their property after their lease has ended. If so, the tenant has the responsibility to continue paying the rent, and if so, they become a tenant at will.
The landlord can evict the tenant at any time without notice as they are there at the will of the landlord.
This, however, doesn’t give the landlord any entitlement over the tenant’s items. They require the tenant's permission, or they have to give notice in advance.
In some states, if a squatter pays taxes, the waiting time is reduced. This is not the case in Indiana. The tax payment period is as long as the required 10 years, meaning they should pay taxes for the entire period.
If this is not the case, the squatter cannot file an adverse possession claim.
There is a law that explains adverse possession when it comes to legal disability.
If the landowner is a minor, in prison, mentally unstable, or legally incompetent, they are given 2 years to claim their property. This is even after the 10-year period is over.
- Even though squatters have rights, they have to meet the legal requirements to actually claim a piece of property.
- Many homeless people are settled and settle into people’s properties to acquire them without rent or mortgage payments.
Squatters and trespassers may falsely claim to have a right to someone’s property through falsified documentation. This can be as a result of being conned or of a genuine desire for the property.
The color of title
The term is used to mean that the squatter’s ownership isn’t complete.
This occurs when someone doesn’t have the necessary documents to take title to a piece of property.
It can be as a result of missing legal documents or if the property isn’t properly registered.
The state of Indiana does not recognize color of title as a means of adverse possession. The option is available to squatters who have successfully claimed it, but it limits them to only the piece of land they occupy.
What is the legal way to handle a squatter?
In Indiana, there is a legal process to be followed when evicting squatters. This is unlike other states where there is a quick process to get the squatters out.
When you find squatters on your property, the first step is to inform the police. This is for legal documentation's sake, apart from being safe. This is because there might be suspicious activities like drug trafficking.
If the squatters present documents saying that they should be on the property, the police won’t remove them and you will have to take action.
In the state of Indiana, three types of eviction notices are recognized:
- Rent arrears are given a ten-day notice if they are not paid.
In Indiana, rent is considered late if it is due past the grace period stated in the lease agreement.
If the tenant does not pay the rent within the 10-day period, the landlord is allowed to start the eviction process.
- Eviction notice for non-competence
Landlords in Indiana are required to give the residents written notice to allow them to correct their issues prior to eviction.
Some of these issues include property damage, noise complaints, and pet policies.
- 45-day eviction notice for illegal drug activities
The landlord is required to give notice prior to the eviction depending on the type of activity, as explained by Ipropertymanagement.com
- 30-90 day notice for lease termination for “at-will residents”
This mostly applies to landlords that do want to renew the lease signed by current residents.
The eviction process takes a few weeks. Most of the time, the court rules in favor of the landowner, especially when the squatters are considered trespassers.
To avoid legal action, the owner should not self-evict the squatter. This is instead done by a law enforcement officer.
Even if the squatter has already left, some states require the owner to explain what they would do with the property.
If the squatter has left some items behind, the owner should get a court order to remove the items. They should then send a notice to the squatter, after which they have 90 days to pick it up from the stored place.
There are situations in which you cannot evict a tenant in Indiana. You cannot discriminate on the basis of a tenant’s physical appearance or physical status.
Some of the protected classes are:
- National origin
- Relationship status or familial status
The Fair Housing Act also protects pets that emotionally or physically care for their owners. This includes guide dogs.
How can I avoid squatters on my land?
Having knowledge of squatter rights in Indiana, you can tell that the process involved in getting back your land is tedious.
To avoid all these, it is important to ensure your property is squatter-proof.
Some states, unlike Indiana, have a smaller waiting period. It is important to visit your land as often as you can to ensure that there is no one squatting on it.
If you find out that someone else is already paying taxes on your property, don’t stop doing so.
This is because they have started the adverse possession process and they want to own your property.
The court will rule in your favor if you present proof that you have been tending to your property.
Most properties with squatters are insecure ones. This is eye-catching for them, but if you make it difficult to access, you will keep them out.
Use window locks and deadbolt locks on doors to further secure your entry points.
If you have roof access, make sure it is sealed. A perimeter wall or fence should also announce your presence.
You can alternatively use alarms and CCTV monitoring with an external company to alert you when there is an intruder.
You could ask a neighbor to watch over your property when you are not around.
They will alert you of any suspicious activities or even assert their physical presence there.
Even if you don’t know them, don’t worry about your neighbor squatting in your home. This is because it is done with your permission and knowledge.
If you are not using the property, you could cut off the electricity, water, and gas supplies. This will make your home less inviting to preying squatters.
If you are planning on demolishing or renovating the house, you could remove them completely.
Enlist your property with a house management company.
You can put your house under the property management firm. This would save you time and money by cutting down on the endless visits and management fees to your property.
The company would take care of the legal process for squatter eviction if any came by. It would also regularly check on your property to ensure that it is secure and has not been tampered with.
You could also schedule landscaping work on your property to keep the lawn and hedges clean. This makes it clear to everyone that the house is well under maintenance.