Wyoming Squatter’s Rights
January 5, 2024
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Squatters In Wyoming
Squatters – those mysterious figures who move into abandoned or vacant properties – have long been a subject of curiosity and confusion for property owners. Many people wonder—and fear—how squatters sometimes gain legal ownership of property they’ve occupied.
Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Wyoming. 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 Wyoming 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 the squatters rights Wyoming establishes and explain how adverse possession in Wyoming works.
- Minimum Occupation Required: 10 consecutive years
- Property Taxes Required? No
- Color of Title Required? No
Who Are Squatters?
A squatter is someone who occupies someone else’s vacant or abandoned property without legal ownership or permission from the property owner. They often move into unoccupied and 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 legal right 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.
What Are Squatters Rights/ Adverse Possession?
Squatter’s rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the general legal doctrine that allows squatters to gain legal right and 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 claims 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 make an adverse possession claim.
Wyoming Squatters Rights
To make a successful claim for Wyoming adverse possession, a squatter must meet the following requirements as per WS § 1-3-103:
- Occupy the property for at least ten continuous years.
Some states require squatters to pay property taxes for a certain length of time or have what’s called “color of title” before filing an adverse possession claim. Color of title refers to the nontraditional ownership of a property, usually due to the lack of one or more required contracts or documents, like an official deed. This is not the case in Wyoming. Wyoming law states that squatters can achieve adverse possession solely by occupying the property continuously for ten years and are not required to have color of title nor have paid property tax during this time.
However, having color of title or evidence of paid property taxes could help the squatter win legal possession of the property if they have proof and bring that evidence to court. Both demonstrate the squatter’s commitment to maintaining the property, but they will still be required to have occupied the property for ten years to claim Wyoming squatters rights.
Squatters in Wyoming (and in all states) 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 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 exclusive and continuous possession of the property (for ten consecutive years in Wyoming).
How Does a Squatter Claim Adverse Possession in Wyoming?
If a squatter has fulfilled both the requirements for squatter’s rights in Wyoming and the general squatter’s rights principles above (e.g., exclusive possession, actual possession, etc.), 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 Wyoming 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 Wyoming 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 to initiate the legal process
- 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 to gain legal title
- Receive a judgment for adverse possession to perfect the title and gain property rights in Wyoming
As you can see, squatters in Wyoming has an enormous burden of proof when claiming property ownership. 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 and claim to squatter’s rights in Wyoming.
How to Remove a Squatter in Wyoming
In Wyoming, as in almost all other states, removing a squatter necessitates the full judicial eviction process. Treating the squatter like any other tenant ensures that any claim for squatter’s rights in Wyoming they file is invalid. If you find out that a squatter is living in your property, you need to provide written notice, file a formal eviction lawsuit in court, and attend (or get your attorney to attend) a hearing to lawfully remove the squatter.
Here is an overview of the eviction process for squatters in Wyoming:
- The property owner must serve the squatter a three-day eviction notice as per Wyoming state law. Possible notices include:
- A three-day notice to pay or quit (for nonpayment of rent)
- A three-day notice to cure or quit (for lease violations)
- Following the notice period, the landlord must file a complaint for eviction with the Wyoming Circuit Court.
- The court will issue a summons to be served to the squatter by the sheriff, U.S. Marshal, or other non-party of age.
- Both the property owner and the squatter must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership.
- Upon confirming the landowner’s ownership, the court will issue a writ of restitution authorizing the squatter’s removal from the premises. The owner may also be entitled to compensation for any property damage the squatter caused and can take legal action to recover those damages.
- The squatter gets two days to move out of the property.
- If the squatter does not move out by this time, the sheriff will forcibly remove them.
Remember that police officers cannot remove squatters in Wyoming—you must call the sheriff, who is the only local law enforcement officer with the appropriate jurisdiction to remove the squatter after a successful eviction lawsuit.
How to Prevent Squatters from Living in Your Vacant Wyoming Property
Here are a few practical tips to prevent squatters from moving into your vacant property and attempting to claim squatter’s rights in Wyoming:
- 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.
- Pay property taxes and keep diligent property tax records.
- Educate yourself on adverse possession in Wyoming and be aware of any changes to adverse possession laws.
- Familiarize yourself with the eviction process in your state.
- Contact legal professionals with questions about squatters, adverse possession, or property rights in Wyoming.
Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to understanding property law and the legal concept of squatter’s rights. 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.