Vermont Squatter Laws

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Lindsey Hoover
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 8 min read
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If you own property in Vermont, having the right legal knowledge about squatter laws could protect you from getting slammed with an adverse possession claim. A squatter has the right to file a claim so long as they continuously live on and maintain the property for 15 years. 
Squatting in the United States is more common than most people think. The state you live in determines the legal rights you have as a property owner, as well as the rights of the individual squatting on the property in question.
Staying informed on state-specific squatter laws is daunting and time-consuming—that’s why  
Jerry, the super app that helps you save on home and car insurance, has created a guide to squatter laws in Vermont. Below we cover everything from the legal definition of squatting to what an adverse possession claim is so that owning property in the Green Mountain State comes with no surprises.
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Who’s considered a squatter in Vermont?

In Vermont, a squatter is someone who takes up residency in an abandoned, unoccupied, or foreclosed building or area of land without lawful permission from the property 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. hold over tenants

When it comes to squatting, trespassing, and holdover tenants, there are subtle differences between the three. The main difference lies in whether or not the property in question is occupied and whether or not the property owner has notified a squatter that they’re unwelcome
A person who enters or occupies your land or property without your permission is considered a trespasser, while a squatter is someone who occupies an abandoned, unoccupied, or foreclosed building or land without permission from you. 
Posting ‘no trespassing’ signs around your property is one way to inform others that they are unwelcome—doing so can help bolster your argument in a legal battle, should it come to that.
But what about holdover tenants? A holdover tenant is someone who remains on the property in question after their lease has ended. Legally, the tenant is required to continue paying rent at the rate outlined in the lease. However, holdover tenants may decide to forgo making payments. If that happens, you can serve them with a notice, in which case they would then be considered a criminal trespasser
One thing to keep in mind: If the tenant agrees to continue paying rent and you accept this, the tenant will become a ‘tenant at will.’ This means you can evict the tenant at any time because they are legally on the property by your will. 

Adverse possession laws in Vermont 

In Vermont, a squatter can gain legal rights to a piece of property through adverse possession. But to file a claim, a squatter must first possess the property continuously for at least 15 years and meet five legal requirements. Once 15 years have passed, and the claim has been made, a squatter can legally remain on the property. 
Below we’ve outlined the five legal requirements necessary for a squatter to make a claim.

Hostile possession

A hostile possession isn’t as malicious as it sounds. The term hostile means the individual claiming possession of a piece of land must prove that their possession of the property is an invasion, or infringement upon, the actual owner’s property. Under Vermont law, hostile has three definitions: 
  • Simple Occupation: When a squatter isn’t aware the land belongs to someone else.
  • Awareness of Trespassing: When a trespasser is aware that they have no legal right to be on the property.
  • Good Faith Mistake: When a squatter is unaware of the property’s legal status. 

Actual possession

Actual possession, by law, requires that a squatter maintain a physical presence on the property in question and treat it as if it were their own. This can be done through continuous efforts to maintain and improve a piece of property, such as landscaping or handling repairs

Open and notorious possession

If a squatter doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that they’re living on a piece of property, they have the right to make an adverse possession claim. ‘Open and Notorious’ essentially means that a squatter is open about their occupation of the property. 

Exclusive possession

It’s not uncommon for several squatters to group together and occupy a piece of property. However, under Vermont law, there can only be one squatter in possession of a piece of property—sharing with strangers, other tenants, or even the landowner will prevent a squatter from being able to make an adverse possession claim.

Continuous possession

For a squatter to file a claim, they must reside on the property continuously for 15 years. This means a squatter can’t leave the property and return to it later or give up the property to someone else.
Key Takeaway Under Vermont law, an adverse possession claim requires 15 years of continuous residence, use, or improvement on a piece of property. 

Does Vermont honor color of title claims?

In Vermont, a squatter isn’t required to have a “color of title” to make an adverse possession claim. However, having one would help their case in a legal battle. So what’s a “color of title”? Simply put, a “color of title” means that the property owner is missing at least one legal document, memorial, or registration. This makes it easier for a squatter to file an adverse possession claim.

How to protect yourself from squatters

While squatters may have certain legal rights in Vermont, there are ways you can protect yourself from those trying to occupy your building or area of land. Below we’ve outlined some tips that could save you from a lengthy legal battle:
  • Inspect the property often.
  • Secure the property: Installing a security system can help alert you when someone is on your property. Boarding entrances and locking all doors and windows can also help keep intruders out.
  • Pay property taxes: Paying your property taxes promptly can help bolster your claim in a legal battle and make it difficult for a squatter to complete an adverse possession claim.   
  • Install “no trespassing” signs.
  • Serve written notices: As soon as you realize squatters are on your property, serve them with a written notice to vacate the property. This could help prevent them from laying claim to your property.
  • Call the sheriff: If squatters refuse to leave your property, call the sheriff to have them removed. 
  • Hire a lawyer: In some cases, you’ll need to take legal action against a squatter. Make sure you have the right kind of representation if it comes to this. 
Knowing the right legal information can help you prevent someone from making an adverse possession claim on your property. Refer to Vermont statute laws for more information.
If you’re seeking to remove a squatter from your property, you’ll need to begin the process of a judicial eviction. The process begins with an eviction notice, and there are several eviction notices a property owner can serve a squatter: a 14-Day Notice to Pay (for non-payment of rent), a 7-Day Notice to Quit, a 21-Day Notice to Quit, a 60-Day Notice to Quit (for no lease/end of the lease, depending on the type of tenancy), or a 14-Day Notice to Quit (for illegal activity). 
If a squatter remains on the property after the end of a notice period, a hearing will be scheduled. Both you (the property owner) and the squatter will be required to attend the hearing.

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FAQs

If a squatter occupies property in Vermont, they can technically do so for an indefinite amount of time. However, a squatter may only make an adverse possession claim once they’ve possessed the property continuously for 15 years. After 15 years, the squatter is no longer considered a criminal trespasser under Vermont law.
No—unlike other states, Vermont doesn’t require squatters to pay property taxes.
The answer is complicated. In the United States, trespassing on someone else’s property is a criminal offense, while squatting is deemed “civil in nature.” That said, squatting is considered criminal behavior when an owner can prove the squatter is unwelcome.

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