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A guide to squatters in California

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2022 | Real Estate Litigation

There are circumstances where a person can occupy your property in California without permission or overstay their welcome. Typically, it would be reasonable to throw them out, but before you do so, it is essential to understand their rights and how the law expects you to handle the situation.

Understanding a squatter

A squatter is a person who occupies land or a building without permission from the legal owner. They are sometimes referred to as “adverse possessors” because the law considers them an adverse possessor of the property. Squatters do not pay rent but may live on the premises and make repairs or improvements in exchange for staying there.

Example of a squatter

In California, for example, if someone has been living in your house for more than five years without your permission and paying rent, the state can consider them a squatter with rights under the law. It is essential to understand that squatters can gain protection from eviction due to various laws protecting their rights as tenants, even if they don’t have formal tenancy agreements.

Legal rights of squatters

In California, a squatter can gain protection from eviction if they have lived on the property for more than five years and meet specific criteria. For example, the real estate owner must acknowledge legal possession of a property before any eviction proceedings, or land use litigation can take place. Squatters must also have paid taxes, and insurance and improved the property. Additionally, they must demonstrate a reasonable faith effort to pay rent in some form, even if it is not money.

The law also protects squatters from harassment or abuse from the legal owner or their agents. A squatter’s rights are not absolute, though—they may still lose their rights to occupy the property if there is evidence that shows willful negligence on their part, such as failing to pay rent or taxes, damaging the property, etc.

Given the circumstances, squatters are quite different from trespassers in that squatters are people who have occupied the property for an extended period and act as if they own it. On the other hand, trespassers enter or remain on someone else’s property without permission, and the property owner can evict them immediately without considering their rights.