Squatter's Rights

Oregon Squatter’s Rights

January 2, 2024

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Squatters In Oregon

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 the property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Oregon. 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 Oregon 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 legal claim to your property and change the property’s current legal status, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover Oregon’s squatter’s rights and explain how adverse possession works in this state. 

Overview 

  • 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 Squatters 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 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. 

Oregon Squatters Rights 

What are squatters rights in Oregon? When is a squatter allowed to file an adverse possession claim in Oregon? 

To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Oregon, a squatter must meet the following requirements: 

  • Occupy the property for at least ten consecutive years (ORS § 105.620). 

In some states, squatters are also required to 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 certain required documents like an official deed. Some states require squatters to have color of title before filing an adverse possession claim, while in other states squatters can obtain it through the process of adverse possession.  

According to Oregon squatters rights, squatters do not need to fulfill either of these requirements (property taxes or color of title) before filing a claim; they can gain color of title through the process of making a successful claim for adverse possession in Oregon. The only requirement before the claim is filed is the ten-year continuous occupation. However, having evidence of color of title or paid property taxes may strengthen a squatter’s case in court. 

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 an owner would.  
  1. Continuous Possession—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property (for ten consecutive years according to Oregon law). 

How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Oregon? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the Oregon requirements for squatter’s rights 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 an adverse possession 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 the property owner 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 and adverse possession laws 
  • Receive a judgment for adverse possession to perfect the title 

As you can see, a squatter has an enormous burden of proof when submitting an adverse possession claim for 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 by adverse possession laws. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Oregon 

In Oregon, 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 Oregon eviction process for squatters: 

  1. The owner must send a formal eviction notice, as per Oregon eviction laws. In Oregon, the possible eviction notices are:
    • 13-day pay-or-quit notice (for nonpayment when rent is at least five days late) 
    • Ten-day pay-or-quit notice (for nonpayment when rent is at least eight days late) 
    • 30-day quit notice with 14 days to cure (for lease violations) 
    • 24-hour unconditional quit notice (for personal injury, substantial property damage, fraud, or illegal activity) 
    • 24 hours to cure; 24 hours to quit (for violations caused by a pet) 
    • 24 hours to cure; 48 hours to quit (for drug-/alcohol-free housing violations) 
  1. After the notice period has expired, the owner must file a complaint of forcible detainer with the Oregon Circuit or Justice of the Peace Court. 
  1. The court will issue a summons to court, which must be served to the squatter by the sheriff, an authorized process server, or another non-party. 
  1. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  1. Upon confirming ownership, the judge will issue a notice of restitution instructing the squatter to move out within four days. 
  1. If the squatter does not move out, the court will issue a Writ of Execution of Judgment of Restitution, authorizing the squatter’s forcible removal from the unit by the sheriff. 

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 Oregon 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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