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Squatter's Rights

Connecticut Squatter’s Rights

December 16, 2023

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Handling Squatters In Connecticut

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 Connecticut. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific 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 Connecticut’s squatter’s rights and explain how adverse possession works in this state. 

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 15 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? No 
  • 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. 

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’s rights 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 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. 

Connecticut Squatters Rights 

Squatters rights in Connecticut are unique to this state. To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Connecticut, a squatter must meet the following requirements as per CS § 52-575

  • Occupy the property for at least 15 consecutive years.  

In Connecticut, squatters are not necessarily required to pay property taxes on the land or have color of title to make a valid claim for adverse possession. However, having these aspects, in addition to other evidence (like beautifying the premises or having mail addressed to the property in their name) will add to the squatter’s case and potentially help them convince a judge that they should have legal ownership. 

Squatters must also meet five general requirements for adverse possession: 

  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 (for 15 consecutive years in Connecticut). 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Connecticut? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for squatters rights in Connecticut and the general squatter’s 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 files a claim, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning an adverse possession case—for instance, the squatter would need to: 

  • 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 Connecticut 

In Connecticut, 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 claim 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 Connecticut: 

  1. The owner must send a formal eviction notice, as per Connecticut eviction laws. In Connecticut, the possible eviction notices are: 
    • A three-day pay-or-quit notice (for nonpayment) 
    • A 15-day cure-or-quit notice (for lease violations) 
    • A ten-day quit notice (for repeat violations or “serious nuisances,” like violence or property destruction) 
  2. After the notice period has expired, the owner must file a complaint in Connecticut Superior Court. 
  1. The court will issue a summons to court, which must be served to the squatter by a state officer. 
  1. The squatter must file an appearance and answer to the complaint within two days. If they don’t, the owner can request a default judgment against the squatter. 
  1. If the squatter does file the appearance and answer, both parties must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  1. Upon confirming ownership, the judge will issue an Order of Restitution to the owner after five days. 
  1. The owner can then call the state marshal to serve and execute the writ. The squatter will get 24 hours to move out, after which they will be forcibly removed. 

What happens if a squatter has already filed an adverse possession claim? If this is the case, the owner will have to file an action in court to determine the property’s true owner. This is known as an action to quiet title. However, Connecticut law requires that owners give notice to the squatter in writing that they are disrupting the adverse possession claim (CS § 52-575). The written notice must be documented in order for it to be valid. Other states do not require owners to notify the squatter in this way, so this is a provision unique to Connecticut.  

How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant Connecticut 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 

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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