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Squatter's Rights

Minnesota Squatter’s Rights

December 19, 2023

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Squatters In Minnesota

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 abandoned property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Minnesota. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific laws in your area. The squatters rights Minnesota provides are different from those provided 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 claim to legal ownership of your property, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover Minnesota squatters rights and explain what happens when a squatter claims adverse possession in this state. 

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 15 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Yes, 5 consecutive years 
  • Color of Title Required? No 

Who Are Squatters? 

A squatter is someone who occupies a property without property ownership or permission from the property owner. They do not pay rent and often move into vacant, neglected, or abandoned property. 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 lawful permission or legal ownership 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. Like holdover tenants, 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 doctrine 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 and become a legal property owner. 

Minnesota Squatters Rights 

Squatters rights in Minnesota are based on specific Minnesota adverse possession laws in the state’s law code. To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Minnesota, a squatter must meet all of the following requirements as per (MN Stat. § 541.02). 

  • Occupy the property for at least 15 consecutive years 
  • Pay taxes on the property for at least five consecutive years 

Note that squatters in Minnesota are not required to pay property taxes for the entire length of their occupation to claim ownership. They only need to pay property taxes for the last five consecutive years of their 15-year occupation of the property to claim squatters rights in Minnesota. 

In some states, squatters are required to have what’s called “color of title” before making an adverse possession claim. 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 is not a requirement for adverse possession in the state of Minnesota like paying property taxes is, so squatters can obtain it through the process of making an adverse possession claim. However, having color of title may help support a squatter’s case and increase the likelihood that the court will rule in their favor. 

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 possession—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else. They prevent others from living there like property owners would. 
  1. Continuous possession—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property (15 consecutive years in Minnesota) 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Minnesota? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for squatters rights Minnesota provides and the general squatter’s rights principles above, they can file an adverse possession claim 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 an adverse possession claim, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning adverse possession claims in  Minnesota—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 based on Minnesota law 
  • 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 attempting to claim ownership of and legal right to 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 and claim to squatter’s rights in Minnesota. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Minnesota 

In Minnesota, 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 process to evict squatters in Minnesota: 

  1. The owner must send a formal eviction notice, as per Minnesota law on eviction. The length of an eviction notice in Minnesota is not specified. 
  2. Next, the owner must file a complaint of forcible detainer with the Minnesota District or Housing Court. 
  3. The court will issue a summons to court, which must be served to the squatter by the sheriff of another authorized process server. 
  4. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  5. Upon confirming ownership, the judge will issue a writ of recovery of premises and order to vacate, authorizing the sheriff to forcibly remove the squatter. 
  6. If the squatter refuses to move out, they will be given 24 hours before the sheriff returns to remove them and their personal 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 Minnesota 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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