Texas Squatters Rights
The legal system can sometimes appear to be complex when it comes to property rights. Squatters are one topic that commonly raises questions. Squatters—individuals who occupy property without the owner’s consent—may, in some cases, assert rights to that property in Texas, as they do in many other states.
From the viewpoints of both the property owner and the squatters themselves, this article will assist in understanding squatters’ rights in Texas. We’ll go into the specifics of the law, present examples to highlight important viewpoints and provide guidance on how to handle such circumstances.
We’ve also written an article discussing if you can turn off utilities on a squatter living in your property.
The Intricacies of Texas Squatters Rights
The legal concept of “adverse possession,” often known as “squatter’s rights,” enables someone who does not legally own a property to ultimately acquire ownership rights over it. This usually occurs after the squatter has lived there for an extended period of time and the original owner hasn’t taken any steps to get them out.
Consider a property in Austin that has been unoccupied since the owner moved to a different state to picture this. A squatter comes in, makes themselves their home there and takes care of the place as though it were their own. In the future, the squatter could be able to assert legal ownership of the property if the original owner does not step in to have the squatter removed.
But in Texas, squatters must meet a number of strict standards before they may assert adverse possession. For a period of ten years, they must publicly, constantly, and solely occupy the property. Additionally, their possession of the space must be “hostile,” which means without the owner’s consent.
Adverse Possession and its Requirements
According to Texas law, a squatter must meet certain requirements in order to lodge a claim under the theory of adverse possession. A claim of right that is incompatible with and opposing the claim of another person involves real, peaceful, open, notorious, and hostile ownership of the property.
Simply said, a squatter must act as though they are the owners of the land by residing there. They may, for instance, make renovations to the property, pay the property taxes, and utilize the property publicly like an ordinary owner would. They must carry out all of these tasks without attempting to hide what they’re doing from the actual owner, the neighborhood, or anybody else.
Trespassing vs. Squatting: A Key Distinction
When talking about squatter’s rights, it is essential to distinguish between trespassers and squatters. Someone who enters a property without authorization and often has no intention of staying there permanently is a trespasser. For instance, someone who enters an unoccupied Houston home during a hurricane and departs the next day would be seen as a trespasser.
In contrast, a squatter illegally accesses a property with the intention of staying there permanently. Squatters, as opposed to trespassers, would be labeled if someone discovered an abandoned house in Dallas, moved in, and started acting as the owner with the goal of being there permanently. The squatter may eventually acquire legal title through adverse possession if the original owner does not take measures to have the squatter removed.
Case Study: Trespasser vs. Squatter
Let’s examine a fictitious scenario involving two houses in Houston to better clarify the distinction between a trespasser and a squatter. A homeless man breaks into the first house and spends a couple of nights there before leaving. The individual would be regarded as a trespasser in this case because his visit was brief and he had no desire to assert his ownership of the land.
Another person discovers an abandoned, deteriorating home in the second property. They move there, begin to fix things up and live there in public for a while. The person in question is a squatter in this situation. They have occupied the property, acted like the owner and lived there for a considerable amount of time. Understanding squatters’ rights in Texas may differ from state to state, and from case to case, so it is best to consult a lawyer.
Asserting the Rights of Property Owners
Property owners in Texas have a number of rights and legal options to deal with squatters. Squatters may be removed from a property by the owner or may face trespassing charges. Yet, the squatter may have rights under adverse possession rules if they have lived there for a considerable amount of time and the owner has not objected.
Therefore, understanding squatters’ rights in Texas is quite important before proceeding to take any action.
It is advisable to notify the authorities if you find a squatter on your property in Texas. But in order to evict the squatters, police enforcement may see the issue as a civil problem and need a court order. As a result, the official eviction process is necessary.
Legal Resources for Property Owners
If an owner discovers a squatter on a property, they should contact a lawyer right away. They can receive advice on how to effectively retrieve their property from a legal expert.
In one instance, the owner of a property in Corpus Christi came home from an extended vacation abroad to discover squatters residing in their home. The owner quickly got in touch with a lawyer, who suggested they gather proof, such as papers showing their ownership and pictures of the squatters residing on the property, and file a lawsuit for eviction.
Navigating the Eviction Process in Texas
Property owners in Texas are required to execute the official eviction procedure if squatters are detected and do not willingly leave the premises. Giving the squatter a notice to vacate—typically a three-day notice—is the first step in this process. The owner may initiate an unlawful detainer lawsuit, also known as a forceful entrance and detainer suit, if the squatter doesn’t vacate by the deadline.
For example, suppose you are the owner of a property in San Antonio where squatters have taken up residence. Giving them a notice to leave would be the initial move. You would then file a lawsuit at the local justice court if they wouldn’t leave.
The Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit
A crucial step in the eviction process is the lawsuit for the unlawful detainer. The lawsuit requests that the court publicly acknowledge that the squatters are occupying the property illegally and compel them to go.
In a similar situation in Lubbock, the landlord found squatters residing in their rented home. The squatters had not departed after receiving a notice to leave and the mandatory three days had passed. The owner then brought an illegal detainer lawsuit. The case was described in detail in the accusation, including how the squatters were first found, how the notice to vacate was given, and how they resisted being asked to leave.
Court Hearings and Judgments
The court sets a hearing date following the filing of a lawsuit for wrongful detainer. Both the property owner and the squatter have the chance to argue their positions at this hearing. After considering the facts and arguments, the court will decide.
Take into account an El Paso property owner who has served notice and filed a lawsuit. The owner provides photographic and witness testimony evidence of the squatter’s occupation during the hearing. The squatter, on their part, is free to provide any proof they feel supports their claim to the land.
A judgment for possession of the property is given if the court determines in the property owner’s favor. As a result, the property owner regains ownership of the property and must take action by law to evict the squatter.
Writ of Possession and Squatter Removal
A Writ of Possession is a legal document that the court issues to allow the eviction of squatters from a property. The property owner in Texas may apply for this writ if squatters continue to refuse to leave even after a judgment for possession. The local sheriff or constable’s office has the power to evict the squatter and their possessions from the property after the issue of the writ.
Imagine, for instance, that a property owner in Fort Worth received a judgment for possession, but the squatter won’t leave their property. The owner then requests a Writ of Possession from the court. The area’s sheriff’s office publishes a 24-hour notice to vacate the property. After this time, the sheriff has the power to forcibly evict the squatter if they still haven’t departed.
Prevention: The Best Approach
The best action plan is always to avoid squatter situations. Squatters may be found through routine inspections, especially of abandoned properties. Potential squatters can be discouraged by securing the property by making sure all of the doors and windows are closed and by setting up security features like alarm systems or video cameras.
Consider an Amarillo landlord who has an empty rental property as an example. They set up security cameras, routinely check and preserve the property to discourage squatters by creating the appearance of occupation. They also employ a property management firm to do regular inspections, oversee repairs and deal with any issues that may arise.
Conclusion – Understanding Squatters’ Rights in Texas
It might be difficult to fully comprehend squatters’ rights and the eviction procedure. To cope with such circumstances, it might be helpful to learn about the legality of squatting in Texas, the distinctions between trespassing and squatting and the rights of property owners.
Although prevention is still the best strategy for avoiding future squatter concerns, if a squatter scenario does emerge, it is essential to act quickly and adhere to the required legal procedures to safeguard property rights. In order to resolve these complicated situations successfully, it is usually important to get legal advice.
For squatters rights in Missouri, take a look at this article.