Oklahoma Squatter’s Rights
January 2, 2024
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Squatters In Oklahoma
Squatters – those mysterious figures who move into abandoned or vacant properties – have long been a subject of curiosity and confusion of property owners. Many property owners wonder—and fear—how squatters sometimes gain legal ownership of the property they’ve occupied.
Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Oklahoma. 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 Oklahoma provides differ from those provided in other states.
While most property owners can feel comforted that it is notoriously difficult for a squatter to fulfill all the requirements necessary to make a successful legal claim, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover squatters rights in Oklahoma and explain how adverse possession Oklahoma laws work.
- Minimum Occupation Required: 15 consecutive years
- Property Taxes Required? Yes, 5 consecutive years
- Color of Title Required? Yes; must have a title from a tax assessor
Who Are Squatters?
A squatter is someone who moves into an abandoned or unoccupied property without legal ownership or permission from the property owner. They often move into vacant or neglected properties. Squatters could squat temporarily (e.g., for a few weeks) or for years at a time, and they do not pay rent.
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 the owner’s 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, as trespassing is a criminal offense. 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 for a continuous possession period.
What Are Squatters Rights /Adverse Possession?
Squatter’s rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the general legal action that allows squatters to gain legal property ownership through a long period of possession, even without the permission of the property owner. While squatter’s rights might seem antiquated today, adverse possession laws exist 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 make an adverse possession claim of an unoccupied property.
Oklahoma Squatters Rights
To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Oklahoma, a squatter must meet each of the following requirements as per Oklahoma law (OS § 12-93, 94):
- Occupy the property for at least 15 continuous years.
- Have color of title (a title from a tax assessor)
- Pay property taxes for at least five consecutive years
‘Color of title’ refers to ownership of a property that is not traditional, usually without one or more required legal documents like an official deed. Color of title is obtained differently in different states; sometimes squatters can gain it through the adverse possession process, while in other states, color of title is required before any adverse possession action can be filed.
The adverse possession laws Oklahoma enforces describe a different color of title policy than other states’ policies. Squatters in Oklahoma can only gain color of title by paying property taxes for five consecutive years when the owner has not been paying them. After the squatter has done so for five years, they can receive a title from a tax assessor, which grants them color of title over the property. By paying property taxes, thus, a squatter meets both the tax and color of title requirements for an adverse possession claim.
Squatters must also meet five general requirements according to adverse possession laws:
- 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 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 15 consecutive years in Oklahoma).
How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession/ Squatters Rights in Oklahoma?
If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for squatters rights in Oklahoma and the general squatter’s rights principles above, they can file a legal action 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 an adverse possession claim, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning an adverse possession claim—for instance, squatters in Oklahoma would need to:
- Gather ample evidence for their adverse possession 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 (e.g., evidence that the owner doesn’t pay property taxes and the squatter has done so for five years).
- 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 and become the legal property owner
As you can see, a squatter in Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, there are not any specific laws for the removal of squatters according to the squatters rights Oklahoma prescribes. To remove a squatter, a landowner must file a judicial eviction. If you find out that a squatter is living in your property, you need to serve written notice, file a formal Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma eviction process for squatters:
- The landlord must serve the squatter a formal eviction notice as per Oklahoma law, the length of which depends on the offense.
- A five-day pay-or-quit notice (for unpaid rent)
- A 15-day quit notice with ten days to cure (for lease violations)
- An immediate unconditional quit notice (for illegal activity or imminent and irremediable harm).
- Following the notice period, the landowner must file a complaint for eviction with the Oklahoma District Court.
- The court will issue a summons to be served to the squatter by the sheriff.
- The squatter must file a verified answer or affidavit with the court to present any defenses they may have. A written answer is required for defendants who are looking to assert title to the land, stating “full and specific statement of the facts constituting his defense of title or boundary dispute” (OS 12 § 1148.6).
- Both parties will attend the court hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership.
- Upon confirming the landowner’s ownership, the court will issue a writ of execution, giving the squatter 48 hours to move out.
- If the squatter does not move out within 48 hours, the sheriff will return to execute the writ and forcibly remove the squatter from the premises.
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 Oklahoma 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 or independent property manager 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.
- Educate yourself on squatters rights in Oklahoma (including any exceptions for a legal disability or legally incompetent persons) and be aware of any changes to adverse possession law.
- Seek correct legal advice from a qualified real estate attorney when necessary.
Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to understanding the Oklahoma squatters rights 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.