Nebraska Squatter’s Rights
December 19, 2023
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Squatters In Nebraska
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 ownership of the property they’ve occupied.
Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Nebraska. 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 Nebraska squatter’s rights and explain how adverse possession laws work in this state.
- Minimum Occupation Required: 10 consecutive years
- Property Taxes Required? No
- 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 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 laws 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 gain legal title of a property.
Nebraska Squatters Rights
To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Nebraska, a squatter must occupy and retain possession of a property for 10 continuous years (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-202, 213).
Some states require squatters to additionally pay property taxes on the land or have what’s called “color of title.” Color of title is unofficial ownership of a property, usually without one or more of the necessary legal documents, like an official deed. Squatters in Nebraska are not required to have either of these requirements (color of title or property taxes), and having them does not reduce the ten-year occupation minimum. However, paying property taxes or having evidence of color of title may strengthen a squatter’s legal case and help them convince the court to rule in their favor.
Squatters must also meet five general requirements according to adverse possession law:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease or rental agreement with the owner.
- Actual Possession—The squatter must have actively lived in the property for a certain length of time.
- Open and Notorious Possession—The squatter’s possession of the property is open and obvious (notorious possession) to neighbors or anyone else. They aren’t living there “in secret” or trying to hide their presence.
- Exclusive Possession—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else. They prevent others from living there like an owner would.
- Continuous Possession—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property for 10 consecutive years. If the landowner is legally disabled, this time frame is extended to 20 years.
How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Nebraska?
If a squatter has fulfilled both the squatters rights in Nebraska 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 determine the rightful owner of a particular property.
Note, however, that just because a squatter in Nebraska files a claim, this does not mean they will be successful. 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
For squatters rights Nebraska requires the 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 According to Squatters Rights in Nebraska
Regarding squatters rights Nebraska, as in almost all other states, removing a squatter necessitates the full, formal civil eviction process. Treating a squatter in Nebraska 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 formal civil eviction process for squatters in Nebraska:
- The landowner must serve a five- to 30-day eviction notice, depending on the reason for eviction.
- Seven-day pay-or-quit notice (for failure to pay rent)
- 14-day cure-or-quit notice (for lease violations)
- 14-day quit notice (for repeated lease violations)
- Five-day quit notice (for violent criminal activity)
- After the allotted notice timeframe, the landowner can file a complaint (the eviction lawsuit) with the court and begin eviction proceedings.
- The court will issue a summons to be served to the squatter at least three days before their hearing.
- Both parties will attend a court hearing to present evidence that they are the lawful owner.
- If the landowner believes that the tenant will not leave on their own, they can request a writ of restitution to be served to the squatter by the sheriff. The squatter will get ten days to move out following the issuance of the writ.
- Once ten days have passed, the sheriff will forcibly remove the squatter.
Remember that police officers cannot remove squatters—only a sheriff has the appropriate jurisdiction to remove the squatter.
How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant Nebraska Property
Here are a few practical tips to prevent squatters from moving into your vacant property or attempting to claim legal ownership:
- Inspect your property regularly.
- 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.
Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to understanding squatters rights in Nebraska. 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.