New Hampshire Squatter’s Rights
December 24, 2023
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Squatters In New Hampshire
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 New Hampshire. 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 New Hampshire provides differ 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 legal claim to your property, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover New Hampshire squatter’s rights and explain how making an adverse possession claim works in this state.
- Minimum Occupation Required: 20 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 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 Is Adverse Possession/ Squatters Rights?
Squatter’s rights, also known as an adverse possession claim, 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 adverse possession claim principles 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.
New Hampshire Squatters Rights
According to New Hampshire law, to make a successful adverse possession claim in New Hampshire, a squatter must have continuous possession of the property for at least 20 years (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann § §508:2).
In some states, squatters are also required to pay property taxes on the land or have color of title before making adverse possession claims (“Color of title” refers to nontraditional ownership of a property, usually without a legal deed to the property or other legal documents). This is not the case in New Hampshire—squatters do not have to pay property taxes or have color of title before filing for adverse possession, nor will doing so reduce the 20-year occupation minimum. However, showing evidence of either in court may strengthen the squatter’s case and help them convince a judge that they should be able to claim adverse possession and legal ownership.
Squatters must also meet five general requirements for an adverse possession claim:
- Hostile/Adverse Possession—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 (actual possession) for a certain length of time.
- 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.
- 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 uninterrupted and continuous possession of the property (for 20 consecutive years in New Hampshire).
How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession NH?
If a squatter has fulfilled both squatters rights NH and the general squatter’s rights principles above (continuous possession, actual possession, notorious possession, etc.), they can file to claim 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 for adverse possession in New Hampshire, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning an adverse possession case—for instance, squatters in New Hampshire would need to:
- Gather ample evidence for their claim (e.g., mail addressed to the property in their name, evidence of paid property taxes, evidence that they’ve “beautified” the property, etc. Note that squatters aren’t required to pay property taxes, but doing so will strengthen their claim.)
- File a quiet title complaint with the court
- Attend a hearing with you in front of a judge, where they’ll present their case to claim adverse possession and/or color of title
- Successfully convince a judge that they have fulfilled all the state requirements for adverse possession
- Receive a judgment for adverse possession/color of title 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 New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, as in almost all other states, removing a squatter necessitates the full eviction lawsuit 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 New Hampshire eviction process for squatters:
- The property owner must serve a seven- to thirty-day eviction notice.
- A seven-day pay or quit notice for the nonpayment of rent.
- A thirty-day quit notice for lease violations
- A seven-day quit notice for unconditional violations like illegal behavior or behavior that damages the property or threatens the health of others.
- The property owner files an eviction lawsuit with the New Hampshire District Court.
- The court will issue a summons to be served to the squatter by the sheriff or other authorized process server.
- Both parties must attend a court hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership.
- Upon confirming that the landowner is the rightful owner, the court will issue a writ of possession ordering the squatter to move out.
- If the squatter does not move out, a sheriff will return to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.
Remember that a police officer or local law enforcement officer cannot remove squatters in New Hampshire. You must call the sheriff, who has the appropriate jurisdiction to remove the squatter, not the local police.
How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant New Hampshire Property
Here are a few practical tips to prevent squatters from moving into your vacant property and attempting to claim squatter’s rights/adverse possession in New Hampshire:
- 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.
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.