Kentucky Squatter Laws

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Bee Davis
Updated on May 31, 2022 · 5 min read
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The state of Kentucky allows squatters to file for an adverse possession claim after 15 years of continuous residence—but they must pay property taxes for that entire time.
Squatting carries a negative connotation in the U.S., but in some cases, it’s perfectly legal. Squatter laws may be a good thing for unhoused people seeking shelter, but they can be a legal headache for property owners. 
If you’re curious about squatter laws in Kentucky, look no further! Jerry, the home insurance broker and super app, has compiled information about squatter laws in Kentucky so you don’t have to. In this article, we’ll cover what squatting is, when it’s illegal, when squatters can file for adverse possession, and how to protect your property from unwanted guests. 
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Who’s considered a squatter in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, squatting refers to living on an unoccupied property, abandoned, or foreclosed without permission by the owner
Since the 1850s, the US government has passed laws to define squatter’s rights. These laws make a clear distinction between legal squatting and illegal acts, like criminal trespass. 

Squatting vs. trespassing vs. holdover tenants

So what’s the difference between squatting and trespassing? Basically, squatting is legal as long as the squatter has not been explicitly asked to leave by the owner.
If the owner posts signs against trespassing or asks residents to leave directly, their presence becomes trespassing. 
Another instance of questionable tenancy is holdover tenants. If a tenant continues to pay rent and the owner agrees even after a lease has ended, they’re considered a holdover tenant, not trespassers. 

Adverse possession laws in Kentucky 

Kentucky’s adverse possession laws create a way for individuals to gain legal ownership of a property. To qualify, a squatter has to maintain continuous residency of a property for 15 years along with other requirements.

Hostile possession

While this might sound aggressive, hostile possession just refers to living on a property without the owner's permission. This might mean that the squatter was unaware their presence was unlawful, but it also covers cases of “simple” or “good faith” occupation where the individual believes the property is theirs. 

Active possession

To file an adverse possession claim, the filer must prove that they’ve used the property in the same way the owner would. That means taking care of maintenance, landscaping, routine repairs, and other active means of ownership. 

Open and notorious possession

An adverse possession claim requires the filer to have been living openly on the property. If they’ve been hiding or living in a way that doesn’t make their presence known, their claim is invalid.

Exclusive possession

While squatting can often be a group activity, a person must be the only resident of the property to file for adverse possession. Kentucky will not grant adverse possession if a group claims ownership. 

Continuous possession

Adverse possession claims in Kentucky require squatters to keep continuous residence of the property for 15 years and have paid property taxes for the entire time.
If a squatter does not pay property taxes, their adverse possession claim is invalid. 

Does Kentucky honor color of title claims?

Color of title means that an individual filing for adverse possession is missing necessary paperwork, usually a deed or title to the land. 
The state of Kentucky allows squatters to file with color of title after 7 years of residence and paid property taxes. This is different than the regular 15-year requirement for adverse possession. 
Key Takeaway An adverse possession claim requires 15 years of continuous residence, use, or improvement, along with paid property taxes. 

How to protect yourself from squatters

While squatting on unoccupied property isn’t technically illegal, hosting squatters can be a legal headache for property owners. 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, it’s easier for squatters to take possession. 
  • 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, establishing that squatters are unwelcome can prevent a lawful adverse possession claim. 
  • Pay property taxes promptly: Because property taxes are an essential ingredient for any adverse possession claim, paying your taxes on time can prevent others from laying claim to your property. 

How to find affordable home and car insurance in Kentucky

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FAQs

Technically, squatters in Kentucky can stay on a property until they’re explicitly asked to leave. But to make an adverse possession claim, they need to live and pay taxes on the property for at least 15 years.
If they want to file an adverse possession claim, yes, squatters in Kentucky are required to pay property taxes for at least 15 years. Otherwise, it’s not required.
Only if the home is occupied or squatters have been explicitly asked to leave. If the owner posts signage restricting trespassers or asks squatters to leave directly, then it becomes trespassing.

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