If you own property in
South Dakota, knowing about your state’s squatter laws is important to being a responsible property owner. In South Dakota, squatters can make an adverse possession claim on a property if they have lived there for twenty years and made improvements to the property.
You may be surprised to learn that squatting is legal in the U.S. in many cases, despite its negative reputation. This could be welcome news if you don’t have stable housing, but if you’re a property owner you may very well be worried about possible legal action if any squatters make their way to your property.
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Who’s considered a squatter in South Dakota?
Squatting is the term used for living in any abandoned, foreclosed, or unoccupied property without the rightful property owner’s permission.
Starting in the 1850s, the U.S. government passed laws to define the rights of squatters. Because of these laws, there is a clear difference between squatting and criminal acts, such as trespassing.
Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants
There’s a difference between squatting and trespassing—but what exactly is it? In the simplest terms, the distinction is found in whether the property is occupied or not and if the property owner has made it completely clear that squatters are unwelcome there.
If someone settles into your home without getting your permission while you currently live there, that falls under trespassing.
Squatters can be charged with trespassing if you have made it clear they are not welcome through signs and warnings. However, it wouldn’t be considered trespassing if the property is empty and the squatter wouldn’t know they aren’t welcome there.
Wait—what about holdover tenants? It could technically be called trespassing if a tenant stays in a rental property after their leasing agreement has expired—but if they continue to pay the rent and the landlord accepts it, the tenants then become tenants at will.
Adverse possession laws in South Dakota
When it comes to squatting cases, adverse possession laws in South Dakota allow individuals to make a legal claim on a property against the rights of the property owner. The individual must have lived at the property for twenty years and made improvements to the property. They are not required to
pay property taxesbut must meet the following criteria.
Hostile possession isn’t truly “hostile.” It means that the squatter is living on a property, but does not have permission from the property owner to do so. This could cover cases where a trespasser knows the property belongs to another person, but it also includes instances of “simple” or “good faith” occupation where the squatter isn’t aware of their unlawful occupation.
One of the requirements of making an adverse possession claim is having active control. The squatter must be living at the property and using it the way the property owner would. They need to make improvements to the property through maintenance and repairs.
Open and notorious possession
A squatter can’t lay an adverse possession claim on a property if they have been living there in secret. They have to be occupying the property openly so that anyone who comes to the property would easily recognize the squatter lives there.
There are some cases where a group of strangers squat on the same property together. An adverse possession claim won’t be recognized in these circumstances—the squatter must have exclusive possession over the property for the 20 years.
A key factor in making an adverse possession claim is continuous possession. The squatter is required to have continuous possession of the property for twenty years and must make improvements to the property throughout their stay.
South Dakota has a long time requirement of twenty years—meaning it can be difficult for squatters to assert their rights in this state.
Key Takeaway Making an adverse possession claim in South Dakota requires twenty years of continuous residence and regular improvements to the property.
Does South Dakota honor color of title claims?
“Color of title” claims do not require squatters to have all of the necessary paperwork to lay their adverse possession claim. South Dakota does honor color of title claims with a couple of key conditions: the individual has lived there for twenty years, and they paid property taxes for ten successive years.
How to protect yourself from squatters
South Dakota provides some protections to squatters, but you can take action to protect yourself and your property from potential legal battles they can bring:
- Pay property taxes on time: Promptly paying your property taxes can weaken any other claims to your property.
- Visit your property regularly: Squatters can take possession of your property much more easily if there’s no one home.
- Install alarms and locks: Decent security measures can help deter any unwanted entrances to your property.
- Post “no trespassing” signs: Adverse possession claims can be stopped if you make it clear that squatters are not welcome at your property.
If there are squatters on your property and they try to take possession of it, there are a few options for you. You can advise them you are the property owner and ask them to vacate the premises, offer to let them stay and rent your property instead, call your local sheriff’s office, or file an unlawful detainer suit to have them removed from your property.
You’ll have to be careful when you encounter squatters because some actions could get you into legal trouble. Don’t turn off any of the utilities or threaten the squatters—you will be able to have them removed from your property by following the correct legal procedure.
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How long can squatters stay in South Dakota?
In theory? Squatters can stay at a property indefinitely. However, to make an adverse possession claim in South Dakota they must live on the property for twenty years and make improvements to the property.
Do squatters have to pay property taxes in South Dakota?
Squatters are not required to pay property taxes in South Dakota to make an adverse possession claim. If they are trying to make a color of title claim, they are required to pay property taxes on the property for at least ten successive years.
Is it illegal to squat in a home?
Not exactly. Squatting can be legal if the individual is staying at a property that is abandoned, unoccupied, or foreclosed and the owner has not made it known squatters aren’t welcome. However, trespassing is a criminal act.