Maine Squatter Laws

Maine squatter laws allow an individual to make an adverse possession claim if they live on and maintain an unoccupied property for 20 years.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If you own property in
Maine
, it’s important to understand the state’s squatter laws. In the Pine Tree State, squatters can attain ownership of another person’s property after occupying it for at least 20 years. 
If squatters begin living on your abandoned property and file for adverse possession, it’s up to you as the original owner to prove that you still own and legitimately use it. Once a squatter has settled down on a property—especially if it was previously dilapidated and they try to make improvements—courts are likely to rule in their favor. 
With all the confusion that may arise from this situation,
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has created this guide to squatter laws in Maine. We’ll cover who a squatter is, how squatter laws work, and how you can protect what you rightfully own.
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Who’s considered a squatter in Maine?

In Maine, a squatter is anyone who occupies a foreclosed, abandoned, or unoccupied property without the owner's permission. Sometimes, these individuals believe they are legal tenants.
The US government passed the first law to protect squatter's rights with the Homestead Act of 1862. Since then, other regulations have helped define the difference between legal squatting and criminal acts such as trespassing. 

Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants

The words “squatting” and “trespassing” are often used interchangeably, but legally, they are two different things. In a nutshell, the difference comes down to whether the property owner has told the intruder that they are unwelcome
To prosecute for trespassing, you must prove that the intruder knowingly entered and remained on your property even after learning they didn’t have the right to be there. For example, someone hiking and unwittingly wandering onto private land would not be considered a trespasser. But if that same hiker hopped over a fence and ignored “no trespassing” signs, they would be a trespasser.
Additionally, a holdover tenant is a previous tenant who remains on a rental property even after their lease has ended. If the tenant continues to pay rent at the current rate and terms and the landlord allows them to do so, they become a “tenant at will.” This means they are on the property at the landlord's will and can be evicted at any time without notice.

Adverse possession laws in Maine 

Adverse possession laws are a legal route a squatter can take to claim someone else’s building or land. The laws allow the squatter to avoid prosecution for trespassing by claiming that they have lived on the land (publicly) for a sufficient amount of time and maintained it. 
There are five distinct requirements a squatter must meet before they can make an adverse possession claim: 

Hostile possession

Hostile possession isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, but it does mean settling down without permission and against the rights of the true owner. 
It is important to note that the squatter does not have to be aware that the land belongs to someone else. 

Active possession

Active, or actual, possession requires that the squatter be physically present on the property and treats it as if it were their own. This can be established by proving maintenance of the land or buildings or documenting beautification efforts. 

Open and notorious possession

Open and notorious possession means that the squatter is using the property as the owner would, and is not trying to hide their presence or their activities. 
It must be obvious to anyone, even the landowner, that someone is living on the property. 

Exclusive possession

The property must be exclusively occupied by the squatter (meaning no one else shares in the property’s upkeep). So, for example, the squatter cannot live on a piece of land with several other friends and then claim rights to the property. 

Continuous possession

In Maine, a person must take continuous possession of a piece of property for 20 years to make an adverse possession claim.
The squatter cannot leave and live elsewhere for any period, no matter how short. This is a much longer time frame than most other states. 
If the land is uncultivated and in an unincorporated area of Maine, you will also have to pay all property taxes if you wish to make an adverse possession claim down the road. 
Key Takeaway If your possession is not hostile, active, open and notorious, and exclusive, you do not have grounds for an adverse possession claim. 

Does Maine honor color of title claims?

A “color of title” claim is brought by someone who believes they are a property’s rightful owner but does not have the correct documentation to prove it—for example, they have an illegible title or none at all. 
In Maine, having color of title doesn’t reduce the continuous possession period required to claim adverse possession—the squatter still must occupy the property for at least 20 years to make a claim.
MORE: How to get vacant home insurance

How to protect yourself from squatters

Although squatters enjoy certain legal protections in Maine, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your property from squatters: 
  • Visit often: The more often you visit your property, the more likely you’ll be able to spot squatters and get rid of them in a timely manner.
  • Install locks and alarms: If you’re not living at your property full-time, locked windows and doors will deter most would-be trespassers.
  • Cap utilities: Capping utilities will make it incredibly difficult for trespassers to do things like reconnecting the electricity, and in general will serve as a deterrent. 
  • Post “no trespassing” signs: A no trespassing sign establishes your private ownership and allows you to communicate that other people do not have permission to be on your property. 
If you find a squatter on your property, start by asking them to leave. If they refuse, call the police. Just be aware that if the squatter claims tenancy or produces fake documents, you will likely have to take them to court and go through the eviction process. 
Likewise, if they file ownership as a squatter, you have to file a countersuit and produce documents verifying your ownership of the property.  

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FAQs

A squatter must occupy a property for at least 20 years before making an adverse possession claim in Maine, even if they have color of title.
In Maine, squatters are required to pay property taxes on uncultivated land in unincorporated areas. Paying taxes does not reduce your required possession time of 20 years to file a claim.
If you do not pay taxes, you cannot make an adverse property claim. If the land does not qualify as uncultivated, however, the squatter does not have to pay taxes.
Squatting is technically illegal because, in order to squat, one must first trespass. However, there are laws to protect squatters once they have established residence on your property.
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