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Squatter's Rights

Mississippi Squatter’s Rights

December 19, 2023

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Squatters In Mississippi

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 claim legal ownership of the property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Mississippi. 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 Mississippi provides differ from those provided by other states’ real estate laws. 

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

Overview 

  • Minimum Occupation Required: 10 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Yes, 2 years 
  • 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 of the property owner 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 permission of the property owner. 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. 

Mississippi Squatters Rights 

To make a successful claim for adverse possession or squatters rights in Mississippi, a squatter must meet the following requirements as per (Miss. Code § 15-1-13, 15-1-15). 

  • Occupy the property for at least ten consecutive years. 
  • Pay property taxes for at least two years. 

There is one exception to the above. Certain land in Mississippi, called 16th Section Lands, is designated as trust land for the support of public education. This land cannot be claimed via Mississippi adverse possession laws unless possession has lasted at least 25 consecutive years (Miss. Code § 29-3-7). 

Squatters must also meet five general requirements:

  1. Hostile/Adverse Possession—The squatter must not have a valid lease or rental agreement with the owner.  
  1. Actual Possession—The squatter must have actively lived in the property for a certain length of time.  
  1. Open and Notorious Possession—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 (ten consecutive years in Mississippi). 

In some states, squatters are also required to have what’s called “color of title” to make a valid 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. 

In Mississippi, color of title is not strictly required to make an adverse possession claim under the provisions above. However, Mississippi provides two ways to obtain color of title. A squatter can either: 

  1. Complete a successful claim for adverse possession in Mississippi. 
  1. Purchase the title to the property. Squatters in Mississippi have the option of buying the title to the property they’re occupying if the original owner has failed to pay property taxes. The squatter must wait at least two years after the tax sale, and then occupy the property for an additional three years under all the general requirements listed above for adverse possession in Mississippi. They then have the option of buying the title to obtain color of title. 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession/ Squatters Rights in Mississippi? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for squatters rights in Mississippi 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 via Mississippi law—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 Mississippi 

In Mississippi, 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 Mississippi eviction process used to remove squatters: 

  1. The owner must send a formal eviction notice, as per Mississippi law on eviction. In Mississippi, the possible eviction notices are: 
    • A three-day pay-or-quit notice (for nonpayment) 
    • A 14-day cure-or-quit notice (for lease violations) 
    • An immediate unconditional quit notice (for substantial or health/safety violations) 
  1. After the notice period has expired, the owner must file a complaint of forcible detainer with the Mississippi County or Justice Court. 
  1. The court will issue a summons to court, which is usually served to the squatter by the sheriff of another authorized process server. 
  1. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  1. Upon confirming ownership, the court will order the squatter to move out within seven days. 
  1. If the squatter does not move out, the court will issue a warrant of removal authorizing the sheriff to forcibly remove the squatter. 
  1. The sheriff will give the squatter a final notice period to move out and then return to forcibly remove them. 

Remember that by Mississippi law, 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 Mississippi Property 

Here are a few practical tips all property owners should take to prevent squatters from moving into 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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