Squatter's Rights

Louisiana Squatter’s Rights

December 18, 2023

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Squatters In Louisiana

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 Louisiana. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific laws in your area. The laws on adverse possession Louisiana enforces differ from those in other states. 

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 Louisiana squatters rights and explain how adverse possession laws work in this state. 

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 30 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? No 
  • Color of Title Required? Optional; 10 years occupation + color of title sufficient 

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 Is Adverse Possession/ Squatter’s Rights? 

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, but there are legal precedents for them in each state and laws governing some of the requirements to claim adverse possession. 

Squatters Rights in Louisiana 

In Louisiana, adverse possession is referred to as “acquisitive prescription.” However, the rules for acquisitive prescription are similar to adverse possession laws in most states. To claim adverse possession or acquisitive prescription via squatters rights in Louisiana, squatters must meet one of the following criteria as per Louisiana law (LA Civ Code 742 (2018)): 

  • Occupy the property for at least 30 consecutive years 
  • Occupy the property with color of title for at least 10 consecutive years 

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 require squatters to have color of title before making an adverse possession claim; other states allow squatters to obtain it through the process of making an adverse possession claim. 

According to Louisiana’s adverse possession law, squatters can make a valid claim to the property after only ten years if they have color of title beforehand. Louisiana squatters can also obtain color of title by winning an acquisitive prescription case; however, they will have had to occupy the property for at least thirty years first. Note that squatters in Louisiana are not required to pay property taxes on the land, but having done so will strengthen their case and increase the likelihood of a favorable decision from the court. 

Squatters must also meet five general requirements to make an adverse possession claim: 

  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 uninterrupted and continuous possession of the property (for 10 or 30 years in Louisiana) 

How Does a Squatter Claim Louisiana Adverse Possession? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the Louisiana squatters rights and the general squatter’s rights principles above, they can file a claim for Louisiana adverse possession (acquisitive prescription) 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 Louisiana squatters rights. 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 the property owner 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 an adverse possession claim 
  • 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 adverse possession claim and action to quiet title. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Louisiana 

In Louisiana, 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 Louisiana: 

  1. The property owner must serve a five-day notice to quit. This time frame applies to all circumstances that would warrant eviction.  
  1. After the squatter has received a notice and has not paid rent or vacated the property after the five allotted days, the landowner must file a complaint for eviction (called a “Rule for Possession” in Louisiana) with the Louisiana City, District, or Justice of the Peace Court. 
  1. The court will then issue a citation or summons, which demands the squatter’s presence in court and is served by a sheriff or constable.  
  1. The owner must attend a court hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. If the squatter does not attend the hearing, the judgment will be awarded to the property owner by default. 
  1. If the judge rules in favor of the owner, the squatter has 24 hours to vacate the unit, or will be forcibly removed by the sheriff.  
  1. If the squatter does not appeal or move out within 24 hours after judgement, the court will issue a Warrant of Possession. The warrant is a court order that gives the sheriff the authority to forcibly remove the squatter from the premises. The property owner must take the warrant to a sheriff, constable, or marshal who may execute it and remove the squatter in the presence of at least two witnesses.  

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 Louisiana 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 squatters rights in Louisiana. 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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