In Texas, squatters have certain rights, such as the right to your Dallas property. In fact, it’s possible for a squatter who is living on your Dallas property to eventually legally own it!
In this article, we’ll go over all the basics you need to know. You’ll learn all about:
- Squatters and how they differ from trespassers
- Adverse possession and color of title
- How a squatter can gain possession of your property
- How to prevent and remove squatters from your Dallas unit
So, let’s get started!
Who are Squatters in Texas?
A squatter is someone who lives on someone else’s property without permission. In most cases, the property is foreclosed, abandoned, or unoccupied.
What is the Difference Between a Squatter and a Trespasser?
First, squatting is civil in nature, while trespassing is a criminal offense. However, a squatter can become a trespasser if the owner establishes that the squatter is no longer welcome.
Second, a squatter occupies a property with the intention of owning it. This is not the case with a trespasser.
And third, a squatter has rights under the law whereas a trespasser doesn’t. In fact, even law enforcement will usually stay away from cases involving squatters.
Are Holdover Tenants Trespassers?
When a tenant signs a lease, they agree to live there for a certain duration of time – usually, one year. So, once the lease has expired, they are required to move out of their rented premises.
This, however, doesn’t always happen. If a tenant doesn’t leave, the tenant becomes a “holdover tenant.” The landlord may choose to either let the tenant continue living on the property or ask them to leave.
If the landlord allows the tenant to continue living on the property, then the tenant lives on the landlord’s will. In other words, the landlord can terminate their tenancy at any time without notice.
But if the landlord asks the tenant to leave and they refuse, the landlord would have the option to file a forceful detainer lawsuit. And in such a case, the tenant automatically becomes a criminal trespasser.
What is Adverse Possession?
Squatters’ rights are also known as adverse possession rights. Adverse possession is the legal process through which a squatter can gain legal ownership of a property. Before a court allows a claim, the squatter must meet certain criteria.
One such criteria is having occupied the property for at least 10 years. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.021, et seq). This period may also be reduced to just 5 years if the squatter meets the following three requirements:
- Have color of title
- Show proof of their beautification efforts to the property
- Prove that they have been paying property taxes
What Does Color of Title Mean?
‘Color of Title’ is something that you’re bound to encounter when doing research about squatters’ rights. So, what exactly does it mean? Color of Title simply means irregular property ownership.
In other words, it means that the owner may be missing one or more of the required documents needed for full ownership.
In order for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim, the statewide law requires them to have color of title for 3 years out of the required 10 years of uninterrupted occupation.
How Can a Squatter Take Possession of Your Dallas Home?
A squatter may be able to legally own your Dallas home by fulfilling all requirements of adverse possession. The requirements are as follows.
Requirement #1: The tenant must have occupied the property exclusively.
Sharing the property with others, whether tenants or fellow squatters, would invalidate their claim to the property.
Requirement #2: Their occupation must be obvious to everyone.
A squatter must not try to hide the fact that they are occupying the property. Anyone, including the actual owner, should be able to tell that there’s a squatter occupying their property.
Requirement #3: The trespasser must be physically present.
This can be demonstrated by beautification efforts they have made to the property.
Requirement #4: The occupation by the squatter must be hostile.
In real estate law, ‘hostile’ doesn’t connote danger or violence. Instead, the term ‘hostile’ takes three definitions:
- ‘Simple Occupation.’ The majority of states usually go by this definition. ‘Hostile’ is defined as a mere occupation of a property. The person trespassing on the property doesn’t have to be aware that their actions amount to trespassing.
- ‘Awareness of Trespassing.’ This is opposite to the first definition. Here, the trespasser is required to know that their actions are illegal.
- ‘Good Faith Mistake.’ The squatter may have mistakenly thought they have the proper documentation to own the property.
How do you Prevent Squatters from Occupying Your Dallas Home?
When it comes to squatters, prevention is better than cure. That’s because removing squatters can be a nightmare. The process can be stressful, costly, and a time sink.
Luckily, there are a couple of things you can do to keep your home safe while you are away:
- Form the habit of regularly inspecting the property. If you live some distance away, then consider hiring someone to do it for you.
- Always pay your property taxes. One way a squatter can gain ownership to your property is by paying property taxes.
- Secure all entrances to the property.
- Erect “No Trespassing’ signs throughout your property.
How to Evict a Squatter in Texas: Removing Squatters
If you already have a squatter problem, here’s what you could do.
Just like most states, Texas doesn’t have any special laws regarding removing squatters. Therefore, you must follow the statewide eviction process to have a squatter removed.
At SGI Property Management Dallas, we have a team of trusted, experienced, and knowledgeable property managers who understand the Texas squatter’s law. We can help you navigate your way through the legal rights of squatters should you find them on your property.
If you want more information about any laws in Texas, including the landlord-tenant law and the security deposit law, contact us today.
Disclaimer: This blog is by no means a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need further help or have other questions, please seek help from a qualified attorney. An experienced property management company