US homeowners should exercise extra caution in these states, where adverse possession can be claimed in just ten years


In certain instances, an individual can gain possession of your property if they meet specific requirements. The legal term for this is “adverse possession.”

As squatting incidents run rampant through certain communities across the country, Fox News Digital investigated how individuals can gain possession of private property under certain requirements, commonly known in the legal realm as “adverse possession.” 

Adverse possession can go hand-in-hand with squatting issues, and is commonly referred to as “squatters’ rights.

With stories of squatters popping up around the country, adverse possession has also been brought to light.

Adverse possession can happen intentionally, in the case of a squatter, for example, or unintentionally. An example of unintentional adverse possession would be if a homeowner puts up a fence to mark the boundaries of their property, but unknowingly crosses into their neighbor’s land. The homeowner who built the fence could later claim unintentional adverse possession of that land. 

courtroom and gavel

Many squatter situations can lead to lengthy court battles. In certain cases, the unlawful occupant can earn possession of the rightful owners’ land. Because of this, homeowners should be informed of the laws in their state to protect themselves. (iStock)

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Each state has different requirements in order for a person, such as a squatter, to gain possession of land under adverse possession. Fox News Digital examined states with little requirements for squatters to claim rights to a property. 

Stipulations from state to state on this law include factors like how long the squatter has continuously lived on the property and whether they have paid taxes.  

States like Maine and Massachusetts, for example, do not require a deed or taxes to be paid, but they do require the person to have lived on the property for 20 years before adverse possession potentially comes into play, according to MaineLegislature.gov and Mass.gov respectively. 

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According to Iowa’s adverse possession laws, Iowa Code 560, et seq., a person only has to have continuous occupancy for five years before the possibility of ownership. 

In California, if a person pays taxes on property they do not own and has lived on that property for five years, then adverse possession could be claimed, according to FindLaw.com. 

American flag waving in clear blue sky

Each state has its own set of conditions that must be met for a person to claim adverse possession. Some are very straight forward, while others have a lot more stipulations within them. (iStock)

Then, there are certain states where adverse possession laws require a squatter to be living on the land for 10 years, with no taxes paid or no deed or similar documents needed. All homeowners should keep an eye on their properties to protect themselves from lengthy court battles with squatters, especially those in the states that only require 10 years (or less) of continuous possession. 

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Mississippi is an example of one of these states. However, in Mississippi, the person must pay taxes for two out of those 10 years, according to FindLaw.com. 

Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming are all states that only require 10 years of occupancy before adverse possession could be claimed, according to legal information websites, FindLaw and Nolo. 

Each state has its own smaller details regarding adverse possession. In Washington, for example, which is another that requires a person to live on a property for just 10 years in order to possibly maintain legal ownership, although if they have a deed or paid taxes, only seven years are required, according to WA.gov.

"No trespassing" sign

Marking boundary lines with fencing and even “no trespassing” signs can help protect your land against adverse possession claims. (Michael Blackshire/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Since each state has its own small stipulations, it is vital to look into your state’s code or consult a legal professional to keep yourself safe as a homeowner. 

As a property owner, other ways you can protect yourself are to clearly mark your boundary lines. This can be done with fencing or even large plants and trees. If necessary, “no trespassing” signs can also be helpful. 

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Always monitor your property. If you are going away for a long period of time, have a neighbor or family member check in. If you have a rental property, ensure that you are taking measures to watch over it frequently. 



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