Illinois Squatter Laws

If you’re a property owner in Illinois, understanding squatting laws can help protect your property from an adverse possession claim. Learn more here.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If you’re a property owner in
, understanding squatting laws can help protect your property from an adverse possession claim. In Illinois, a squatter can make an adverse possession claim on your property if they’ve lived on a property continuously for 20 years—or as little as seven if they’ve paid property taxes and/or have a color of title. 
While it might sound bizarre, squatting on a property can actually end with a squatter obtaining ownership of that property after a certain amount of time if the right conditions are met. 
home insurance
super app
has created this introduction to squatter laws in Illinois. Read on to learn about who’s considered a squatter, when adverse property claims can be made, and tips to keep trespassers off your property. 
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Who’s considered a squatter in Illinois?

Generally speaking, squatting is when someone lives in an abandoned, foreclosed, or otherwise unoccupied property that isn’t theirs without permission from the property’s owner.
Depending on the situation and location, a squatter may actually be able to claim possession of a property if they’ve lived on it long enough. 
State laws are always subject to change, so to learn how Illinois squatting laws affect you, you'll want to review current state laws and consult with a legal expert if you need to. 

Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants

There are fine lines between what constitutes squatting and what becomes trespassing. Two key differences between them are whether the property is occupied and whether the owner has informed the squatters they aren’t welcome on the property. 
If a property is already inhabited and a person tries to take up residence there, that would generally be considered a clear case of trespassing
If a property has clearly posted“no trespassing” signs, it is easier to legally address a situation if someone is on the property without permission. Without “no trespassing” signs, however, or if a property’s abandoned or otherwise unoccupied, a squatter may be able to argue that they didn’t know they weren’t welcome on the property. 
Similarly, holdover tenants who continue to occupy a home after their lease has expired and without the landlord’s permission can pose similar problems. A holdover tenant could be considered a trespasser, but if they make a payment that the landlord accepts, they’ll have certain rights as an at-will tenant.

Adverse possession laws in Illinois

To meet the qualifications to make an adverse claim on a property, it takes at least 20 years of uninterrupted occupancy, according to
Illinois state law
. However, if a squatter has a color of title or pays property taxes, they may only need to occupy a property for seven years.
Additionally, for a court to grant a property to someone claiming adverse possession, they will evaluate five criteria: 

Hostile possession

While the term is more intense than it sounds, hostile possession is when a squatter has been living on the property without the owner’s consent, but it doesn’t necessarily imply ill will. There are a few different circumstances that could be defined as hostile possession.
In certain situations, a person squatting on a property might not know the property actually belongs to someone else. Hostile possession can also be a mistake made in good faith—like if the squatter obtained a false deed that they believed was legitimate.

Actual possession

Actual possession means that the squatter has been actively living on the property as an owner would, which would include making improvements or repairs to the home or paying property taxes on it.

Open and notorious possession

A squatter who’s been hiding on a property won’t be able to make an adverse possession claim. They must live on the property openly in a manner that would be apparent to neighbors, visitors, or passersby. 

Exclusive possession

The squatter must also have exclusive occupancy of the property for a certain period of time. If they are sharing the property with multiple people, it wouldn’t qualify for an inverse property claim.

Continuous possession

A squatter must be in continuous possession of the property for a certain period. In Illinois, that is 20 years, unless property taxes have been paid and there’s a color of title involved, in which case the amount of time could be shortened to seven years.

Does Illinois honor color of title claims?

A “color of title,”  which is also known as an “apparent title,” refers to a title to real property that might appear to be valid, but doesn’t actually grant full, legally-recognized ownership to a piece of property. This could happen when a buyer purchases a property and parties involved in the sale don’t realize the title isn’t adequate. 
Under certain circumstances in Illinois, a person with a color of title could obtain a property through adverse possession if they’ve occupied the property for seven years rather than 20.

How to protect yourself from squatters in Illinois

If you own a property in Illinois, here are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from some of the legal headaches that can come with a squatting situation:
  • Visit the property regularly: If you own a property you’re not currently living in, paying regular visits can help reduce the likelihood that someone decides to start squatting there. The more you visit, the likelier you’ll also be to pick up on signs like left-behind items if squatting is already occurring. 
  • Post “no trespassing” signs: Having “no trespassing” signs on doors and gates of the property makes it clear that squatters aren’t welcome and can give you more legal recourse if a squatting situation does occur.
  • Install a security system: Locks and alarms can help secure your property from unwanted visitors, and security cameras can help you monitor your property while you’re away to determine if anyone’s been staying at your property.
  • Pay property taxes promptly: In Illinois, paying property taxes is one step that can help a squatter obtain your property in less time, so making sure you’re paying them on time can help prevent others from trying to claim your property.
If you do find that someone has been squatting on your property, there are a handful of things you can do—as well as a handful of actions you want to avoid.
Providing a squatter with written notice informs them of the property’s true ownership and supports your request that they leave the property. If they refuse, you could offer to rent them the property—as a tenant, but they wouldn’t be eligible to make an adverse property claim. In certain situations, you may need to follow Illinois eviction proceedings to remove a squatter from your property. 
Don’t take matters into your own hands in ways that are perceived as threats, like turning off the property’s utilities. This could have serious legal implications on your end. Instead, it’s best to get legal counsel as needed and follow proper Illinois legal procedures.

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To make an adverse possession claim, among other factors, a squatter would have to live on a property for 20 consecutive years—or seven, if they have a color of title and/or have paid property taxes.
Not necessarily—even if a squatter hasn’t paid property taxes, they may still be able to claim adverse possession of a property if they’ve occupied it for 20 consecutive years. However, if they’ve paid property taxes, they may be able to make an adverse possession claim in as little as seven years.
It depends on the situation and location. While trespassing is generally illegal in the United States, squatting may be legal under certain circumstances, like if the property is unoccupied and the owner hasn’t made the squatters aware they’re not welcome on the property.
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