New Hampshire Squatter Laws

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In New Hampshire, a squatter may make an adverse property claim over property that they’ve lived on, maintained, and paid property taxes for over 20 continuous years. Such requirements make it difficult for squatters to make an adverse claim, but it is possible.
In the US, squatting is generally frowned upon as a disruptive and often illegal activity. Despite this negative connotation, squatters do have limited rights in this country. For dutiful property owners in New Hampshire, this can be bad news.
To avoid future legal troubles and keep your property protected, insurance Jerry, the super app for car and home insurance, has created a complete guide on everything you need to know about squatter laws in New Hampshire.
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Who’s considered a squatter in New Hampshire? 

In New Hampshire, a squatter is anyone who occupies an abandoned, unoccupied, or foreclosed property without permission. Squatters don’t rent or own the property, and they don’t have permission from the owner to live there. 

Squatting vs trespassing vs holdover tenants

This definition sounds a lot like trespassing, but there’s one crucial difference between squatting and trespassing. A squatter lives in an unoccupied dwelling, while a trespasser lives on your property while you or someone else legally occupies it. 
You may wonder how holdover tenants fit into this picture. If a tenant remains living in their unit even after their lease is up, this could count as trespassing. But, if the tenant keeps on paying rent and the landlord accepts these payments, the tenants become legal tenants at will. 
Holdover tenants can’t make adverse possession claims if they’ve been told to leave the premises by their landlord. 

Adverse possession laws in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, squatters can file an adverse possession claim over your property and against your ownership if they’ve been living on your property for a continuous 20 years. Unlike many US states, New Hampshire law does not require squatters to pay property taxes in order to file an adverse possession claim, which makes it much easier for squatters to file this claim. 
Before a squatter can file this type of claim, they need to meet five distinct requirements:

The squatter has to make a hostile claim

No, this doesn’t mean their claim is violent! Hostile is a legal term used to describe three different acceptable situations for a squatter to claim adverse possession of property: 
  • Simple occupation: In this case, the squatter doesn’t know they’re illegally occupying someone else's land. 
  • Awareness of trespassing: In this case, the squatter has to know that their occupation is unlawful and they have no right to use the property. 
  • Good faith mistake: In this case, the squatter is acting on an incorrect land deed and believed they were occupying the property in accordance with the law, or “in good faith.” 

The squatter must have actual possession of the property

The squatter must physically live on the property and treat it like it’s their own home. Regular maintenance and beautification is one way a squatter can prove actual possession. 

The squatter must have open and notorious possession of the property

In other words, the squatter can’t hide that they live there and their occupation has to be obvious to any property owner who inspects the property. 

The squatter must have exclusive possession of the property

To successfully file an adverse possession claim, the squatter has to be the only person occupying the property for a continuous twenty years. This means that no other squatters, tenants, strangers, or the owner can occupy the property while the squatter is living there. 

The squatter must have continuous possession of the property

This is perhaps the hardest requirement to fulfill in New Hampshire because the squatter must have continuous possession of the property for twenty years while maintaining all of the other requirements. They cannot give the property up at any time during this timeframe. 
Key Takeaway For squatters to file a successful adverse possession claim, they must be legally hostile, maintain the property, be the sole occupants, not hide their occupation, and stay put for 20 years. 

Does New Hampshire honor color of title claims? 

Some states recognize “color of title” claims, which don’t require squatters to provide complete paperwork for an adverse possession claim because the ownership of the property is irregular in some respect. 
New Hampshire does not honor this type of claim: squatters must provide all the necessary regular paperwork in order to process a claim. 

How to protect yourself from squatters

While it’s difficult for squatters to make an adverse possession claim on your property (as they have to occupy your land for 20 continuous years), it’s still important to stay vigilant and protect yourself against squatters. 
Here are a few ways you can protect yourself and your property from squatters: 
Visit often: It’s easier for squatters to take possession if you’re gone for long periods. Ensure you inspect your property frequently and if you expect to be away for a long time, have trusted neighbors check on your property for you. 
  • Install locks and alarms: Installing a quality security system and locks on all windows and doors can prevent unwanted entry. Make sure you maintain your security systems and change all locks if they become compromised.  
  • Keep utilities shut off at unused properties: Turning off your water and electric utilities when your property is left unoccupied makes your land less alluring to squatters. 
In New Hampshire, there are no laws that specifically govern the removal of squatters from your property. This means that squatters have to be removed through the standard legal eviction process, even though their occupation is illegal. 
You’ll have to send your squatters a 7-day notice to quit, a 30-day notice to quit, or, if you’re feeling generous, a 7-day notice to pay rent or quit. 
If your squatters don’t obey your notice, you can file an eviction lawsuit and have the squatters removed from your property if the court rules in your favor. A law enforcement officer must escort them from the premises; you can’t do it yourself!
Note that if you notice squatters on your property, it’s illegal to force them to leave by changing locks or turning off utilities. These are preventative methods only. 

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FAQs

Call your sheriff, not the local police. The sheriff has jurisdiction to deal with squatting situations while local police usually can’t do much to help.
Unlike other states, squatters in New Hampshire don’t have to pay property taxes to file an adverse possession claim for your property.
They do have to remain on your property for 20 continuous years, though, along with other requirements.

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