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Do Squatters Have Rights in California?

Squatters: the slang term for people who live in an unoccupied building or area of land without the right to do so. If you are a property owner with plans to rehabilitate abandoned real estate, or you simply have not yet put part of your land to use, these unlawful occupants may be a source of trouble or frustration.

California, however, gives them rights that may turn a small annoyance into a serious legal hassle. This was the case for one condo-owner in Southern California, who made no use of his property for 13 years. When he finally visited, he found it occupied, because squatters had successfully gained the title to his condo.

How Does Adverse Possession Work if Trespassing Is Illegal?

Adverse possession is the process by which one party (in this case, the unlawful occupant) obtains rights to a portion of the property they occupy. In California, squatters can gain rights to the property if they live there for five or more years. The original owner, therefore, has the burden of making use of the property and forcing squatters to leave the premises.

To gain full legal rights at the end of the five-year period, squatters must:

  • Pay property taxes for the title
  • Cultivate and improve the property
  • Occupy the property in a continuous and open way, so the true owner could have easily witnessed their occupation

Adverse possession is different from encroachment. Although both involve unauthorized use of property, encroachment is when a neighboring property owner builds or extends a structure onto another person’s property.

How to Evict Squatters

If you discover unlawful occupants on your property, you can evict them and effectively prevent adverse possession by calling the police, serving them with an eviction notice, or filing a lawsuit.

Let Us Help You Preserve Your Rights

If someone is violating your property rights, our team of attorneys at Purdy & Bailey, LLP is ready to provide strategic counsel and aggressive representation. With half a century of combined experience, we are skilled navigators of complex business and real estate litigation matters. You have worked hard to obtain and protect your real estate, and we will do everything in our power to ensure your rights are respected.

Contact us online or call (858) 360-7080 for your complimentary consultation today.