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What Are Squatters Rights in Texas? A Comprehensive Guide.

In our continuing series called The Tired Landlord, next up we tackle the clash between squatters and homeowners and how it presents a complex Texas-sized legal headache. First, let’s define what is a squatter? A squatter is a person who is occupying someone else’s uninhabited property. These people have no legal ownership or title to the home, however, they can acquire this at some point. Squatters, who occupy vacant houses without the owner’s permission, and homeowners, seeking to protect their property rights, must navigate a maze of legalities for the eviction process in Texas.

Our team has a deep history of handling the eviction process and possession laws of possible squatter activity in the Dallas Fort Worth area and throughout Texas. From being on the ground with the sheriff or constable who is serving a writ of possession during the day of the eviction notice with loads and loads of trash to be hauled off to bringing the house back to housing market ready standards is no easy task. This blog post aims to share our experience and knowledge, and most importantly demystify the intricacies of squatters rights in Texas, offering guidance and a plan of attack.

Understanding Squatters’ Rights in Texas

Squatters in Texas, bless their misplaced optimism, can actually claim ownership after living in a Texas house for a spell – five years, to be precise. Now, this ain’t a simple “camp out and claim it” game of monopoly. They have to have paid their property taxes, live openly like a sunbaked lizard, and make home improvements and repairs to the house. But if they check all the boxes, a loss property investment to someone who snuck in through a broken window with a rusty crowbar. Talk about adding insult to injury, right? This occurs through a legal concept known as “adverse possession,” which allows a squatter to claim ownership after living in the house or on the property continuously for a specific period of time.

However, this potential change in ownership doesn’t strip the original homeowner of the right to seek financial cash compensation for lost rent or other related expenses. Additionally, in cases of foreclosure, squatters may remain in the residence until formally evicted by the new owner or by court order. Although squatting is illegal and can result in criminal charges, due process must be followed to remove squatters, ensuring fairness for all parties involved.

Differentiating Between Squatters Rights and Trespassers

Over the years, distinguishing squatters from trespassers has become second nature to our team at Bright Bid Homes, a critical skill as realtors and Texas property managers. A squatter, often misunderstood, isn’t just an unwanted guest; they might be a resident without current legal standing but with potential rights in the making. Squatters settle in, not just for shelter but with an eye towards a possible future property claim. A trespasser, on the other hand, is more straightforward in their intent – they enter without plans to stay or claim, often leaving as quickly as they entered.

In our journey through the maze of Texas property law, the term ‘adverse possession’ has come up more times than I can count. It’s not just about someone occupying a property but doing so with a boldness that’s hard to ignore. Squatters must be conspicuous, continuous, and show a clear intent to own the house by fulfilling responsibilities like property tax payments. This law isn’t just text in legal books; it’s a reality that we’ve seen unfold, sometimes culminating in courtrooms with affidavits flying where the line between property ownership and resident occupancy gets blurred and redrawn. The key to navigating this complex terrain is a thorough understanding of the nuances, something that we’ve honed through years of hands-on experience in the Texas housing market.

Understanding the distinction between the landlord tenant relationship and a squatter trespasser relationship is crucial for Texas homeowners. A squatter occupies a house or land without legal rights, claim or permission, potentially living there for an extended period. In contrast, a trespasser enters or uses someone else’s house without permission but does not usually reside or make changes to the home.

If an individual has been residing at a house for over 30 days without the owner’s consent, they are likely a squatter. Trespassing, involving activities like vandalism or theft, can lead to criminal charges. Recognizing these differences helps homeowners protect their rights effectively.

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Legal Requirements for Establishing Adverse Possession

Adverse possession in Texas requires the squatter to openly, notoriously, and continuously occupy the house or property for at least 10 years, intending to possess it as their own. They must also demonstrate that they have been paying property taxes during this period. Homeowners can challenge adverse possession claims in court, but success hinges on understanding these legal nuances.

Understanding Color Of Title

There’s the “color of title” twist. Imagine your grandpa’s handwritten promise passed down like a tattered family heirloom, granting some unknown person aka squatter a shaky claim to a property. Even if it ain’t worth the paper it’s written on, that paper can still cause a big headache in court, stretching out the eviction process. So, be sure to keep every receipt, every lease agreement, even grandma’s grocery list if need be, to prove this house is yours and yours alone. The “color of title” plays a pivotal role in property disputes.

Squatters and Property Taxes

In Texas, squatters are not obligated to pay property taxes until they obtain legal ownership of the house. For a squatter to gain ownership and rights, they must have occupied the house for at least three months and demonstrate tax payments to local authorities. Homeowners must be vigilant about these squatters rights and possession laws to prevent loss of property rights.

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Preventing Squatters in Rental Properties

Homeowners and landlords can adopt several strategies to prevent squatters. Ensuring that all doors and windows are securely locked is basic and fundamental to property managers everywhere. Regular house inspections, installing security cameras, and informing tenants about squatters’ rights are effective measures. Maintaining a log of visitors helps in monitoring and preventing unauthorized squatting occupancy.

For example, in Atlanta Georgia, the problem of squatters has become the largest in the country with an estimated 1,200 homes being illegally occupied in the Atlanta metro area, according to a recent Bloomberg article. If it can happen in Atlanta, property owners need to take steps to make sure it does not make it to Houston TX or Austin Texas.

Bloomberg article continues, “Although precise figures on squatter-plagued homes are hard to find, the number may have quadrupled since the pandemic’s start, said Beth Cruikshank, a real estate attorney. At one point last year, her firm had filed “intruder affidavits” — documents that can help remove illegal occupants — against squatters in more than 700 area rentals.”

How To Remove Squatters in Texas

The eviction process in Texas ain’t a quick two-step dance. It’s a tango with lawyers, compliance and possession laws involved, and court dates that feel like an eternity. Even if you get the legal green light to give the eviction notice, a property owner must wait another three days for the squatter to vacate. Its all apart of the eviction process dance. And if they don’t vacate? It’s a tense waiting game to remove squatters, hoping nobody gets hurt and your house doesn’t end up looking like a local trash dump. Evicting and removing squatters in Texas involves legal procedures, starting with filing an eviction notice called a notice to vacate. The squatter has rights and must be served this eviction notice to vacate either personally or via certified mail, providing them three days to vacate. Failure to comply with these possession laws can lead to longer timelines to remove squatters.

Holdover Tenants and Trespassing

When a tenant remains at a house post-lease expiration without permission, they may transition from a holdover tenant to a property trespasser. Landlords must issue written notice for lease termination and allow a reasonable notice to vacate period of time. If the tenant stays on the property beyond this period, they are legally trespassers, and the landlord tenant actions against them are justified under Texas state and property law.

Potential Time Periods for Squatting

Texas law varies to remove squatters’ in different scenarios. The period a squatter must occupy a house to claim adverse possession is typically five years, provided they demonstrate open, continuous occupation and property improvements. Homeowners should be aware that squatting can also occur in rented units without the landlord’s permission.

Recourse for Landlords after Unlawful Occupancy

For landlords dealing with unlawful house occupancy, several legal remedies and rights are available. These include eviction lawsuits and seeking assistance from law enforcement. Familiarity with state laws that offer additional protection against unlawful home occupations is vital for property owners.

Penalties for Illegal Possession

Illegal possession in Texas carries severe penalties, including criminal charges like Class A misdemeanors, punishable by jail time and fines. Homeowners can also pursue civil actions for property damages and eviction process costs. It’s crucial for those accused of illegal possession laws to seek legal assistance promptly.

Conclusion

We do not claim to be real estate attorneys or legal scholars on the subject to remove squatters and enforce evictions, but it is definitely not our first rodeo. So we want to do our best to share and inform the readers of this blog to help and assist in their eviction process. Understanding homeowner and squatters’ rights in Texas is essential for navigating this complex legal morass. We strongly recommend to get specialized legal counsel when the first signs of the need to remove squatters arises. And remember, laws are different in every state. What is true in Texas might not be the same in Oklahoma or Pennsylvania.

For homeowners and landlords, the realization that squatters can potentially claim rights to their house or investment property can be alarming, underscoring the need for vigilance and legal preparedness. Professional legal advice is often the best course of action in these scenarios. For those seeking alternative solutions, companies like Bright Bid Homes offer avenues to circumvent the stress associated with squatters’ rights through the cash sale of the house. In the end, knowledge and proactive measures are key to effectively managing property rights in Texas.

If you find yourself entangled in the complexities of squatters’ rights or similar property issues in Texas, remember that you have viable options to resolve these challenges efficiently. Selling your house for cash to Bright Bid Homes presents a streamlined, stress-free solution. By submitting your property information to us, you’ll receive a free, no-obligation offer, allowing you to gauge the best course of action without any pressure. Selling your house or investment property should not be a one-size-fits-all process. At Bright Bid Homes, we understand that each situation is unique, and we’re committed to discussing your specific circumstances to find the most suitable path forward. Reach out to our team today, and let us help you navigate these waters with ease and confidence, turning a potentially difficult situation into a bright opportunity for a fresh start!

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