Arkansas Squatter Laws

Arkansas law allows squatters to make an adverse possession claim if they’ve lived on, maintained, and paid taxes on an unoccupied property for 7 years.
Written by Bee Davis
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Under Arkansas law, squatters can file for legal possession of a property they’ve occupied for at least 7 years– but they have to show proof of maintenance and have paid property taxes for that whole time. 
While squatting carries a negative connotation in the U.S., it’s not technically illegal under the right circumstances! Since the 1850s, the federal government has passed laws that both protect the rights of unhoused people seeking shelter and distinguish squatting from illegal acts like trespassing. 
If you’re curious about squatter laws in Arkansas, look no further—
here to help! In this article, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about squatter laws, including what counts as trespassing, how to protect your property, and when and how a squatter can take legal possession of a property they’ve been staying on. 
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Who’s considered a squatter in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, squatting refers to living in an unoccupied, foreclosed, or abandoned property without permission. They basically live there rent-free, without documentation or a security deposit. 
The federal government has enacted squatters laws since the 1950s. These rules not only safeguard the rights of unhoused persons seeking refuge, but they also distinguish between legitimate squatting and illegal conduct such as trespassing.

Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants

So what is the difference between squatting and trespassing? The difference lies in whether or not the building is occupied and the owner has explicitly restricted people from living there. 
Obviously, if the building is occupied already, someone looking to “squat” would actually be trespassing. 
But if nobody lives on the property, it’s up to the owner to restrict squatters from taking up residence. If the owner has posted signs against trespassing or asked squatters to leave directly, squatting becomes trespassing. 
Basically, if a squatter has no reason to believe they’re unwelcome, it’s legal for them to occupy an abandoned or empty property. 
What about holdover tenants? If a tenant stays longer than their lease, that could be considered trespassing, right? Well, if they continue to pay rent and the landlord accepts it, it isn’t illegal. It’s all about the owner’s permission and whether or not they’re in agreement with the occupants. 

Adverse possession laws in Arkansas

There are laws that allow squatters to take possession of a property from its original owner, but it involves a legal process. 
Adverse possession is a legal claim a squatter can make to a property they’ve lived on, paid taxes on, and maintained for a set amount of time. Here are the requirements a squatter needs to meet in order to file an adverse possession claim in Arkansas.

Hostile possession

This sounds more aggressive than it is, but hostile possession just refers to the fact that they’re staying on the property against the right of the true owner and without their permission
This could mean that the person didn’t know the land wasn’t theirs, or aren’t aware their presence is unlawful. 

Active possession

In order to file an adverse possession claim, the person must prove that they have active control and possession of the property, meaning they’ve been using the property in the same way the owner would. 
This includes performing maintenance duties, landscaping, and routine repairs

Open and notorious possession

The person has to have been living on the property openly in a way that should have made the owner aware of their presence during their stay. If they’ve been hiding on the property, that doesn't count. 

Exclusive possession

Squatting is often a group activity, with multiple people inhabiting a property at once. In order to take possession of the property, a squatter must be the only occupant of the space in question

Continuous possession

Arkansas law requires squatters to have lived on a property for 7 successive years in order to file an adverse possession claim. Most importantly, they must pay property taxes on the land for that entire time in order to have a claim. 
Key Takeaway Squatters can have a property transferred to them if they’ve lived and paid taxes on said property for at least 7 consecutive years. 

Does Arkansas honor color of title claims?

You’ve probably heard of a color of title claim. This refers to a transfer of property from one person to another either without the required paperwork or documentation or when said paperwork has become invalid for whatever reason. 
In Arkansas, color of title only applies to wild or unimproved land after a required 15 years of residence

How to protect yourself from squatters

Although Arkansas protects the rights of unhoused people, it can still be a legal headache to host squatters on your property. Here are some things you can do to manage squatters and keep your property safe. 
  • Visit often: If you’re away from your property for long periods of time, you may become a target for squatters. 
  • Install locks and alarms: If you’re not living on your property full-time, a decent security system and locks on all windows and doors can prevent unwanted entry. 
  • Post “no trespassing” signs: Remember, squatting is only lawful if you’ve not restricted permission explicitly. If you have signs that revoke permission, squatters become trespassers on your property. 
  • Pay property taxes promptly: Since property taxes are essential to making an adverse possession claim, paying your taxes on time prevents others from moving in on your claim to the property. 
If you continue to have issues with squatters on your property, there are a few options. You can post a written notice informing them that they’re unwelcome and ask them to leave. If they resist, you can offer to rent the property to them if they have the means. 
In extreme cases, you may want to involve local law enforcement if you have continuing security concerns. 

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Technically, squatters can stay on a property until they are explicitly asked to leave, either by signage or direct communication. But in order to file an adverse possession claim, squatters must live on the property for 7 consecutive years.
If they want to file an adverse possession claim, yes, property taxes are required for at least 7 years of residence on the property. Otherwise, no, it’s not required that squatters pay taxes.
If that home is occupied or the owner has explicitly restricted their presence, yes, that is trespassing. If they have no reason to think they shouldn't be there, then they are protected under Arkansas squatter law.
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