Trouble With Squatters? Here’s the Squatters’ Rights in Texas

A woman rubbing her head worried because she doesn't know what rights squatters have in Texas

Property management is always a difficult task, even when not dealing with squatters. Most landlords hope or assume that the only people living on their property will be their tenants. These tenants, after all, are the only ones who pay to live there and have permission to do so. 

However, in rare cases, unauthorized tenants will reside on a property without paying or acquiring the proper permissions with a lease agreement. These unauthorized tenants are known as “squatters.” In some cases, a squatter could also be someone who stops submitting rent payments and yet remains on the property.

In these rare scenarios, the squatter and the landlord each have specific rights. Therefore, there is also a protocol of sorts to be followed. We have suggestions of actions that are advisable and inadvisable. Texas squatters’ rights dictate much of this process.

What Are Squatters’ Rights?

You might be wondering, what are squatters’ rights, and where do they come from? U.S. squatter rights laws derived from Great Britain’s squatters’ rights. These rights distinguished where each property owner’s land began and ended. 

The primary example of squatters’ rights is the occupant’s right not to be displaced or evicted from a property without notice. Since squatters are technically trespassing on someone else’s land without permission, the actual owner of the property does have the right to tell them to leave. However, they cannot do so without giving proper eviction notice.

Landlords can provide this notice via mail or through the local police department. In any case, the landlord should not have direct contact with the unauthorized tenant, which can help avoid an unpleasant confrontation.

Squatters also have rights through the adverse possession laws. Through an adverse possession claim, unauthorized tenants can gain possession of the property they were occupying after ten years when they take the proper steps. 

Squatters would have to take two main steps to complete this process. First, they would need to pay fees, including the homeowners’ association (HOA) fees and property taxes. Then, they would have to wait for the time specified in the state’s adverse possession law, and following these steps, they can legally gain access to the home.

What Are Texas Squatters’ Rights Laws?

Every U.S. state has squatters’ rights laws, and the state of Texas is no exception. These legal rights almost always come from the adverse possession laws, as outlined above. Let’s say a squatter has occupied your personal property for the required period and met the requirements of Texas law. Then, they can then claim legal possession of the property without paying for it, as per the squatters’ rights in Texas.

If you wish to steer clear of a scenario like this, it is necessary to know the ins and outs of Texas squatters’ rights laws. In Texas, a squatter can file an adverse possession claim for the property they were staying in without permission after staying there continuously for at least ten years. After this number of years, the squatter will no longer be considered a criminal trespasser. 

Steps To Gain Legal Ownership of the Property

A squatter must take five total steps to gain legal ownership of the property that they are trespassing on:

  1. The squatter must have “hostile” possession of the property, meaning they are unaware they are trespassing. If they are unaware that trespassing is a criminal offense, then the act would be a good faith mistake. 
  2. The squatter must be the exclusive occupant of the property they occupy. 
  3. The squatter must also make it evident to the public that they occupy this property. 
  4. The squatter must be physically present on the property that they occupy. 
  5. Finally, the squatter must live on this property continuously for at least ten years.

As long as the squatter is not given written notice of eviction, they can stay on the property without paying or having permission. If the squatter’s adverse possession claim is successful after the proper amount of time without an eviction notice is over, the squatter can legally possess the property. 

Therefore, if you are a landowner in Texas who would like to avoid squatters gaining possession of your property, it is essential to file an eviction notice.

Can You Get Rid of Squatters in Texas?

It is illegal in Texas to forcibly remove someone from your property. Therefore, to legally remove squatters from your property, you must go through the proper eviction process and file an eviction notice.

Evicting a squatter can be expensive. It is vital to also know about any potential expenses of the eviction process. These expenses will be even higher if the eviction process goes to court, becoming a judicial eviction process. You will need to pay to file a police report and hire a lawyer if necessary. However, these expenses could avoid other future ones if you were to let the squatter stay. For example, damages and bills from the squatter could accrue in costs.

How To Get Rid of Squatters in Texas

A woman placing an eviction notice on her house's squatters

The first step in filing an eviction notice is to contact the local police. After calling, you can file an official police report. This official report can also help your case if you end up pursuing the eviction in court. Once you have filed a police report, then you can move to issue an eviction notice to the squatter. 

If the squatter refuses to leave despite the eviction notice, you can take a few steps. This situation might call for actual legal or court action. You can file a complaint for a “wrongful detainer.” You will have to specifically file this complaint in the District Court of the county where the squatter is located to start the court process for a wrongful detainer. 

Hiring a real estate lawyer with experience with residential evictions might also be helpful in this process. A real estate lawyer with this expertise can offer legal advice to help you follow the correct legal procedure. Their expertise can help you create a successful court case. If you win the case, the court will then involve law enforcement in the eviction process by ordering a sheriff to remove the person unlawfully in possession.

Conclusion

Squatters can be a nuisance for any land owner. Whether you don’t want to put out the money to go through the process of evicting them, or if the squatter refuses to leave, many obstacles could come up. But, it is better to deal with this problem than face further complications due to the adverse possession laws that might work in squatters’ favor.

Make sure to take the proper steps to evict any squatters taking up unlawful residence on your property, including filing an official police report and sending an eviction notice. If you need to, also be ready to take the case to court if the squatters show animosity about leaving. In the future, make sure to put “no trespassing” signs on your property, as well.

This breakdown of steps for every scenario should help you through the process of evicting a squatter. Best of luck to you!

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