Squatter's Rights

Idaho Squatter’s Rights

December 16, 2023

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Managing Squatters In Idaho

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 gain legal ownership of the property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Idaho. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific laws in your area. Squatters rights Idaho provides are designated by Idaho laws and are different from those provided in other states. 

If you’re a property owner, 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. However, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover squatters rights in Idaho and explain how adverse possession in Idaho works.  

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 20 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Yes 
  • Color of Title Required? Yes 

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 were the legal property owner of 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 or enters 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 Squatters 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 the squatters rights Idaho law and other states’ laws prescribe 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, but there are legal precedents for them in each state and laws governing some of the requirements to claim adverse possession. For this reason, the steps to make a valid adverse possession claim vary across the U.S. 

Idaho Squatters Rights 

Keep in mind that to make a successful adverse possession claim, a squatter must meet numerous requirements, as the law in Idaho is designed to favor property owners.  

In order to make a successful claim for adverse possession Idaho considers valid, a squatter must meet all of the following criteria as per Idaho Code § 5-203

  • Occupy the property continuously for 20 continuous years. 
  • Protect the property with a substantial enclosure or make improvements to the property. 
  • Pay property taxes for 20 continuous years. 
  • Have color of title (Idaho Code § 5-210). 

A squatter must meet all of these criteria to bring an adverse possession claim to court. Note that Idaho law requires squatters to pay property taxes on the land that they are claiming. 

When someone has “color of title,” this means they have ownership of a property in a nontraditional way, or without having the legal title or deed to the property. Color of title can be obtained in different ways, depending on the state—some states (like Idaho) require squatters to have color of title before making an adverse possession claim; other states allow squatters to obtain in through the process of adverse possession. 

Squatters must also meet five general requirements for squatters rights in Idaho: 

  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 (actual possession) 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 20 consecutive years 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession or Squatters Rights in Idaho? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for Idaho squatters rights 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 in claiming squatters rights in Idaho. 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 Idaho 

In Idaho, 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 Idaho: 

  1. The owner must send the squatter a formal eviction notice, as per Idaho law. Eviction notices in Idaho can range from three to thirty days: 
    • Three-day cure or quit notice (for nonpayment of rent) 
    • Three-day cure or quit notice (for lease violations) 
    • Three-day quit notice (for illegal activity) 
  1. After the notice period has expired, the owner must file a complaint of forcible detainer with the Idaho District Court. 
  1. The court will issue a summons to court, which must be served to the squatter with a copy of the complaint by the sheriff of another authorized process server. Both documents must be served 24 hours before the hearing, and the court must schedule a trial within 72 hours of filing the complaint. 
  1. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. The landowner must prove that the property is rightfully theirs, and that the squatter has no existing rights to the space. 
  1. Upon confirming ownership, the judge will issue a writ of restitution authorizing the sheriff to forcibly remove the squatter. 
  1. The squatter has 72 hours to move out, after which the sheriff will return to remove the squatter. 

Remember that police officers cannot remove squatters—you must call the sheriff, who has the appropriate jurisdiction to remove the squatter. 

How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant Idaho 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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