Squatter's Rights

Alabama Squatter’s Rights

December 13, 2023

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Handling Squatters In Alabama

Squatters – those mysterious figures who move into abandoned or vacant properties – have long been a subject of curiosity and confusion. Many people wonder—and fear—how squatters sometimes end up with legal rights to the property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Alabama squatters rights. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific adverse possession laws in your area.  

While you can feel comforted that it is notoriously difficult for a squatter to fulfill all the requirements necessary to make a successful legal claim to your property, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover squatter rights in Alabama and explain how adverse possession works in this state. 

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 20 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Optional; sufficient to occupy for 10 years and pay taxes 
  • Color of Title Required? No 

Who Are Squatters? 

A squatter is someone who occupies a property without legal ownership or permission from the property owner. They often move into vacant, abandoned, or neglected properties. Squatters could squat temporarily (e.g., for a few weeks) or for years at a time.  

While the term “squatter” probably summons a certain image in your mind, it’s important to note that not all squatters have nefarious intentions. A squatter could be someone who thought they legally owned a property that has been passed down in their family over many generations, only to find out years later that the title officially belongs to someone else. Alabama squatting laws are in place to ensure that legitimate tenants are not evicted unfairly in addition to protecting the rights of landlords and property owners.  

Who Isn’t a Squatter? 

Not everyone who occupies a property without permission is a squatter. For instance, tenants with expired leases are not squatters. Rather, they are “holdover tenants,” or previous tenants who no longer have the right to live in the property. Likewise, trespassers are also not squatters. Criminal trespassers are people who enter onto your private property but do not live there, while squatters actually occupy and live on the vacant property. 

What Are Squatter’s Rights/Adverse Possession? 

Squatter’s rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the general legal principles that allow squatters to gain ownership of a property through a long period of possession, even without the owner’s permission. While squatter laws in Alabama might seem antiquated today, the principles of adverse possession were established to reward the productive use of land and discourage neglect of properties.   

There is no specific federal law governing squatter’s rights or adverse possession, but there are legal precedents for them in each state and laws governing some of the requirements to claim adverse possession. 

Squatter Rights in Alabama 

To make a successful adverse possession claim in Alabama, a squatter must meet one of the following requirements: 

  1. Occupy the property for 20 years continuously. 
  1. Occupy the property and pay property taxes for at least 10 years. 

Squatters must also meet five general requirements: 

  1. Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease or rental agreement with the owner.  
  1. Actual—The squatter must have actively lived in the property for a certain length of time.  
  1. Open and notorious—The squatter’s possession of the property is open and obvious to neighbors or anyone else. They aren’t living there “in secret” or trying to hide their presence.  
  1. Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else. They prevent others from living there like an owner would.  
  1. Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property (10-20 consecutive years according to Alabama adverse possession laws, see above). 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Alabama? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the Alabama requirements for squatters rights and the general squatters rights principles above, they can file a claim for adverse possession or bring an action to “quiet title.” Quiet title is the legal action to claim the right of possession and ownership of a particular property. 

Note, however, that just because a squatter is claiming squatters rights in Alabama, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning an adverse possession case— for instance, squatters in Alabama would need to fulfill the following adverse possession requirements: 

  • Gather ample evidence for their claim (e.g., mail addressed to the property in their name, property tax receipts, evidence that they’ve “beautified” the property, etc.) 
  • File a quiet title complaint with the court 
  • Attend a hearing with you in front of a judge, where they’ll present their case for adverse possession  
  • Successfully convince a judge that they have fulfilled all the state requirements for adverse possession 
  • Receive a judgment for adverse possession to perfect the title 

As you can see, a squatter has an enormous burden of proof when claiming ownership of your property. It is a highly complex process that often requires the squatter to hire an attorney and to have lived in your property for many years. In all likelihood, a squatter situation you’re involved in won’t escalate to a successful action to quiet title. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Alabama 

According to Alabama squatting laws, as in almost all other states, removing a squatter necessitates the full eviction process. Treating the squatter like any other tenant ensures that any adverse possession in Alabama they file is invalid. If you find out that a squatter is living in your property, you need to provide proper notice, file a formal eviction complaint in court, and attend (or get your attorney to attend) a hearing to lawfully remove the squatter. 

Here is an overview of the eviction process for squatters in Alabama: 

  • The owner must send a formal eviction notice. In Alabama, the landlord must send a seven-day eviction notice for all violations. The tenant can avoid eviction by paying their rent or curing the violation within the seven days, except in cases of severe violations. 
  • After the seven days have passed and the squatter refuses to leave, the landlord can file a complaint for eviction in either the Alabama District or Circuit Court. 
  • The court will issue a summons to court, which must be served to the squatter by the sheriff of another authorized process server. 
  • The landlord must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  • If the judge confirms ownership, a writ of restitution will be issued seven days later, authorizing the sheriff to forcibly remove the squatter. 

How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant Alabama Property 

Here are a few practical tips to prevent squatters from moving into your vacant property: 

  • Regularly inspect your property. 
  • Make your property appear inhabited during vacancy periods. 
  • Install adequate lighting and security systems to deter unauthorized entry. 
  • Secure all doors, windows, and access points with sturdy locks and barriers. 
  • Post “No Trespassing” signs on the property. 
  • Encourage neighbors to report any suspicious activity. 
  • Consider hiring a property management company to oversee and maintain the property. 
  • If feasible, keep the property in use, even if temporarily, to discourage squatting. 
  • Develop a good relationship with local law enforcement and notify them of the property’s vacancy to increase patrols and response to trespassing. 

Conclusion 

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of squatters rights in Alabama and the adverse possession requirements in this state. Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to understanding the laws that regulate property possession and ownership. However, it’s worth noting that adverse possession laws are unlikely to come into play in most cases. Property neglect to the extent that a squatter could go unnoticed for the required period is rare, emphasizing the importance of vigilance and preventative measures in protecting property rights. 

Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information. 

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