Oklahoma Squatter Laws

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Annette Maxon
Updated on May 2, 2022 · 8 min read
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Squatter laws in Oklahoma allow squatters to make an adverse possession claim after living on a property for 15 years and paying all taxes levied against the property. 
Landlords in the Sooner State should know their rights when it comes to dealing with squatters. It often comes as a surprise to many that squatting is perfectly legal in the U.S. despite the negative connotations the term often carries. 
Jerry, your go-to source for home and car insurance quotes, has compiled this guide to Oklahoma squatter laws, including what defines squatting, how to make an adverse possession claim, and how to keep your property free of unwanted entrants.
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Who’s considered a squatter in Oklahoma?

In the Sooner State, squatters are anyone who resides in a house or property without the owner’s explicit refusal or knowledge of their presence. 
The property cannot be occupied by the property owner—this means that abandoned, foreclosed, or unoccupied properties are fair game for squatters.
However, property owners should know that there is a clear distinction between squatting, trespassing, and holdover tenants. Though these terms may seem to be interchangeable at first glance, each comes with a specific context. 

Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants

The primary difference between squatting and trespassing comes down to whether the property is occupied by the legal owner and whether the owner has made it clear that the person is unwelcome
Let’s say that the owner is living in the house and meanwhile, a person takes up residence on the property without permission—this is a clear instance of trespassing. 
If a house is empty and does not appear to be occupied, it may be easy to assume that the house is abandoned. However, if there are clearly posted “no trespassing” signs, anyone who takes up residence in the house can face criminal trespassing charges
In contrast, if the home is unoccupied and there is no clear way for an outsider to know they’re unwelcome, then the non-owner may legally take up residence—this is squatting.
A holdover tenant is a person who continues to remain in their rented unit even after their lease expires. They may be considered a trespasser depending on the landlord’s response.
If the landlord asks them to leave, they could be charged with criminal trespassing. However, if the tenant continues to pay rent that is accepted by the landlord, the tenant will be a tenant at will and can stay as long as the landlord allows.
Key Takeaway The difference between squatting and trespassing comes down to whether the entrant has been told they’re unwelcome and whether the property is occupied by the legal owner. 

Adverse possession laws in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, adverse possession laws allow squatters to legally claim a property or house as their own once certain conditions are met. The squatter must have resided on the property for at least 15 years and have proof of paying property taxes on it
Here’s a closer look at the conditions that must be met to file an adverse possession claim in Oklahoma. 

Hostile possession

If the squatter does not have the legal owner’s permission to live on the property, you have a case of hostile possession. This is necessary to make an adverse possession claim. 
In some cases, hostile possession happens when a person is living in a house and did not realize the property was owned by another person. 
Since they do not realize that their residence on the property is unlawful (for example, they may have been conned into signing a fraudulent lease), they can claim hostile possession if they later discover that the property has a lawful owner. 

Active possession

Next, the squatter must be actively living in the house or property as an owner would—this includes being present at the property at least once a week, maintaining the property’s condition, and even improving the property (e.g., gardening, home improvement projects, and landscaping). 

Open and notorious possession

Open and notorious possession is also a requirement. Let’s say the squatter comes and goes freely from the property and interacts with the neighbors—the squatter can claim open and notorious possession since their presence is known and associated with the house
However, if the squatter tries to hide their presence on the property, they will not be able to make an adverse possession claim. 

Exclusive possession

If the squatter is the only person residing in the house or property for at least 15 years, they can then claim exclusive possession of the property. 
The state of Oklahoma does not permit groups of squatters to claim exclusive possession, nor can the squatter be sharing the property with the original owner. 

Continuous possession

As already stated, the squatter must be actively living at the property for a minimum of 15 years. This includes regularly paying any state, county, or municipal taxes on the property
When filing an adverse possession claim, it is essential to have proof that taxes were paid for each of the 15 years the squatter has resided at the property.

Does Oklahoma honor color of title claims?

Yes, Oklahoma will honor any color of title claims. But what is a color of title claim? A color of title claim is a claim to a property that does not include the normally required paperwork (a deed, title, etc.). 
In Oklahoma, as the individual has lived on the property for 15 continuous years and paid all property taxes on it, they can claim legal ownership, even though they don’t have the real title. 
At this point, the owner has two years to challenge the claim. If they don’t, ownership of the property will be given to the squatter. 
Fortunately for property owners, the 15-year time requirement allows ample time for you to reclaim your property before the adverse possession claim can occur.

How to protect yourself from squatters

If you own property—especially multiple properties—take the time to protect yourself from squatters by doing the following:
  • Frequently visit your property: one of the simplest ways to make sure you don’t have any squatters on your property is to visit it frequently. What’s more, this will help establish you as the primary and active owner in the case that a squatter does try claiming adverse possession.
  • Install working locks on doors and windows: good and working locks can go a long way in keeping uninvited individuals from entering your home. 
  • Install alarms: especially if the property is not your primary residence, alarms are a good way to alert you if someone has entered your home. 
  • Post “no trespassing” signs: this is a clear way to establish that squatters are unwelcome on your land, especially if they later try to make an adverse possession claim.
  • Pay property taxes on time: by paying your property taxes promptly, you prevent squatters from trying to pay taxes on the property and claiming continuous possession.
However, there is always the chance that you’ll find squatters trying to claim possession of your property. In this case, there are a few ways to deal with the situation. 
But be cautious in how you handle the situation—avoid making any threats to them yourself or shutting off the home’s utilities. Doing so could result in you having to deal with serious legal charges.
Always start by providing the squatters with a written document stating your ownership and requesting them to vacate your property—written proof that the squatters are unwanted is essential if they try to make an adverse possession claim later on.
If the squatters refuse to leave, you can:
  • Offer them the option of renting the property
  • Contact your local police
  • File an unlawful detainer suit—this will evict the squatters from your property
Remember that the best course of action is to always follow the legal processes when trying to remove squatters from your property so you don’t face any repercussions yourself.

How to find affordable home and car insurance in Oklahoma

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FAQs

It depends on whether the owner is aware of the squatters’ presence or has asked them to leave. If there is no clear signage forbidding trespassing and no one is living in the house, then the squatter has the right to live on the property for as long as they like
However, as soon as the owner asks the squatters to vacate the property, they must leave promptly to avoid further trespassing charges.
Yes, if they want to later claim adverse possession of the property, or if they honestly believe the property to be their own.
It depends on whether the owner lives in the house or has explicitly forbidden trespassers. If either of these conditions is true, then squatting in that home is illegal.
However, if the owner is not actively living in the house and there are no signs or indications that the squatter may be uninvited, then it is legal to squat in the home.

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