If you own property, it’s important to know squatter laws in your state—in
Indiana, for example, squatters who live on a property continuously for ten years may be able to claim possession of it for themselves under circumstances.
As a property owner, the prospect of someone taking over your house can be pretty anxiety-inducing. It’s actually possible through something known as adverse possession, which is when a squatter can claim ownership if they live on and maintain an unoccupied property for a certain period.
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Who’s considered a squatter in Indiana?
Squatting refers to someone living in an abandoned, foreclosed, or otherwise unoccupied property without the owner’s permission.
If a squatter openly lives on a property long enough—10 years in Indiana—they could take ownership of the property themselves through adverse possession.
Claiming a property without needing to pay for it? It almost sounds too good to be true, but successful adverse possession claims can and do happen all over the country.
Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants
While they may seem similar, there are differences between squatting and tresspassing. The legal definition of trespassing is when a person knowingly enters the property of another person without permission.
The key to this difference is the word “knowingly”. If you have “no trespassing” signs clearly posted at your property’s entrances and a would-be squatter enters anyway, it’s often much easier to argue that a case involves criminal trespassing.
Another tricky situation involves holdover tenants. Generally, if a tenant doesn’t vacate a premise after their lease has expired, it may constitute trespassing. However, if the tenant were to make an additional rent payment and the landlord were to accept it, they may become an at-will tenant.
Adverse possession laws in Indiana
In Indiana, a person squatting on a property must continuously reside on it for a minimum of ten years to make an adverse possession claim. This would allow them to take ownership of a property without purchasing it—if the right conditions are met.
To obtain the property, the squatter must also pay all property taxes for the duration of time they’ve claimed to possess it.
Generally, an adverse possession claim will also have to meet the following five requirements:
Hostile possession means the squatter doesn’t have permission from the owner to live on their property. This would also include cases of mistakes made in good faith—for instance, if a person believed they were rightfully occupying a property due to a faulty title.
Actual possession implies you’ve been physically present on the property, living on it, and taking care of maintenance, repairs, and/or general improvements as if you’re the owner.
Open and notorious possession
As a squatter, you can’t make an adverse possession claim by hiding in a property’s dark corners. You have to occupy it openly so that it would be obvious to neighbors, passersby, and visitors that you are living on the property.
Though sometimes people squat on properties in groups, a squatter can’t share occupancy of the property with others—they have to occupy it exclusively.
The squatter must occupy the property continuously for 10 years and pay property taxes for the duration of that time.
Pro Tip State laws can be subject to change over the years, and the circumstances of an adverse possession claim can be complicated, so it’s always best to seek counsel from a legal expert.
Does Indiana honor color of title claims?
A color of title is a document that appears to be a legitimate claim of title to a piece of land but is actually invalid. While some states require a color of title to file an adverse possession claim, Indiana isn’t one of them.
How to protect yourself from squatters
Since a squatter must occupy a property for a considerable amount of time—10 continuous years—before they can lay claim to it, the properties belonging to absentee owners are most vulnerable to adverse property claims.
As a property owner, the sooner you’re aware of a squatter on your property, the sooner you can address the situation and reduce the risk of losing your property to an adverse possession claim.
If you own a property in Indiana, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from a squatting situation:
- Visit the property regularly: Especially if you own a property that’s not currently occupied, routine visits can make it less likely that a squatter will pick your place to take up residence. The more you keep tabs on your property, the easier it will be to notice signs if someone has begun squatting on it.
- Install a security system: Installing locks and alarms can help protect your property from any unwelcome visitors. Adding security cameras can help you monitor it from afar to find out if any unwanted visitors have been at your property.
- Pay property taxes promptly: Since paying property taxes is a significant component of making a successful adverse possession claim in Indiana, it’s a good idea to make sure your taxes are paid on time.
- Post “no trespassing” signs: Having “no trespassing” signs on the entrances of a property, including doors and gates, makes it clearer that squatters aren’t welcome, and it can also give you more legal recourse if a squatting situation does occur.
The most straightforward way to get rid of the squatter is by providing a written notice that informs them of the property’s true ownership and ask that they leave. If they refuse, you can offer to rent them the property—as a tenant, and they wouldn’t have the legal eligibility to make an adverse property claim.
In certain situations, you may need to follow Indiana eviction proceedings to remove a squatter from your property.
Don’t take matters into your own hands by issuing threats or shutting off the utilities, which may only escalate the situation, not to mention the serious legal implications you might have to deal with. Instead, it’s best to get legal counsel as needed and follow proper Indiana legal procedures for your situation.
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How long can squatters stay in Indiana?
Technically, a squatter might be able to live on a property indefinitely—but to make an adverse property claim, they have to live on the property continuously for ten years.
Do squatters have to pay property taxes in Indiana?
Yes. Before a squatter can make an adverse property claim in Indiana, they must pay property taxes for the duration of time they’ve claimed to occupy the property, which needs to be a minimum of ten continuous years.
Is it illegal to squat in a home?
It depends on the circumstances. While trespassing is generally a criminal offense in the United States, certain squatting situations are treated as civil matters that require a court-ordered eviction before the person is required to leave.