Squatter's Rights

Indiana Squatter’s Rights

December 18, 2023

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Managing Squatters In Indiana

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 Indiana. 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 Indiana squatter’s rights and explain how an adverse possession claim works in this state. 

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 10 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Yes 
  • 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 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 Squatter’s Rights/Adverse Possession? 

Squatter’s rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the general legal principles that allow squatters to gain legal 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, but there are legal precedents for them in each state and laws governing some of the requirements to claim adverse possession. Indiana adverse possession laws dictate how squatters claim ownership are treated specifically within the state of Indiana. 

Indiana Squatter’s Rights 

To make a successful adverse possession claim as prescribed by the squatters rights Indiana sets forth, a squatter must meet the following requirements as per IC § 32-21-7-1, and 34-11-2-11

  • Occupy the property for 10 years of continuous possession  
  • Pay property taxes for 10 consecutive years  

In some states, squatters are also required to have color of title before making an adverse possession claim. This is not the case in Indiana. According to Indiana adverse possession laws, squatters can gain color of title through the process of making a successful claim of adverse possession. However, squatters in Indiana must have paid property taxes for the entire length of occupation. 

Additionally, there are four more requirements for squatter’s rights in Indiana. These requirements are not established by adverse possession laws in Indiana, but by two court cases, Fraley v. Minger and Celebration Worship Center, Inc. v. Patrick Tucker and Carolyn P. Tucker:  

  • Control – A squatter in Indiana must use and control the property normally (they have actual and exclusive possession).  
  • Intent – The squatter must demonstrate intent to claim full ownership of the property.  
  • Notice – The squatter’s actions must communicate notice to the legal owner of their intent and control (their possession is visible, open, and notorious).  
  • Duration – The squatter has satisfied these requirements continuously for ten years. 

In other states, these requirements are called “hostile/adverse,” “actual,” “open and notorious,” “exclusive,” and “continuous.” The same principles apply in all states; it just happens that Indiana’s adverse possession laws use different terminology than most states’ laws. 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Indiana? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the squatters rights Indiana dictates 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 for squatters rights in Indiana, this does not mean they will be successful. Indiana squatter laws do not make it easy for a squatter to gain possession, and 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/squatters rights in Indiana 
  • Successfully convince a judge that they have fulfilled all the state requirements for adverse possession/squatters rights in Indiana 
  • 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 as per Indiana’s adverse possession laws. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Indiana 

In Indiana, 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 Indiana: 

  1. The landowner must serve the squatter a formal eviction notice according to Indiana law. There are multiple possible eviction notices: 
    • Ten-day pay-or-quit notice (for rent nonpayment) 
    • Reasonable cure-or-quit notice (for lease violations) 
    • 45-day unconditional quit notice (for criminal/illegal activity). 
  1. The owner files a complaint with the clerk of any local Indiana court.  
  1. The court will issue a summons to be served to the squatter by a sheriff or other authorized process server at least 10 days prior to the eviction hearing.  
  1. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  1. If the court rules in favor of the landowner, a writ of possession is issued. 
  1. The writ will be served to the squatter by the sheriff, who gets 48 hours to five days to move out. 
  1. If the squatter does not move out, the sheriff will return to forcibly remove them from the property. 

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 Indiana 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 Indiana squatter 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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