Did you know that a squatter can take legal possession of your Georgia home if they meet certain requirements? That’s right. A squatter can take full ownership of a property under adverse possession laws.
Essentially, adverse possession laws are typically referred to as “squatters’ rights” laws. That’s because squatters invoke them when they inhabit structures or land otherwise left unused or unoccupied.
The term “adverse” alludes to the fact that the claimants are doing so against the interests of the actual property owners.
In this blog, you are going to learn everything you need to know about Squatters’ rights in Acworth, Georgia. However, before we can get into that, let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions concerning Squatters.
Who does the state of Georgia consider a Squatter?
Georgia recognizes a squatter as a person who occupies a property without lawful permission of the owner. In most cases, the property is usually foreclosed, abandoned or simply unoccupied.
A squatter doesn’t pay any rent to live on the property.
Is trespassing similar to squatting?
Not necessarily. Squatting is civil in nature, while trespassing is usually a felony. That said, squatting can also be treated as a felony once the property owner establishes that the squatter is unwelcome there.
Is a holdover tenant a trespasser?
First off, a holdover tenant is a tenant that refuses to leave once their lease has expired. So, can such a tenant be viewed as a criminal trespasser? Absolutely!
If, as a landlord, you ask the tenant to leave and they refuse, you may sue them for unlawful detainer. Consequently, such a tenant doesn’t qualify to make an adverse possession claim.
Please note, however, that you cannot file an unlawful detainer lawsuit if you choose to continue accepting rent. That’s because by accepting rent payments, you waive your right to evict them from your property.
In fact, a tenant may use that as a defense in an eviction hearing.
What is adverse possession in Georgia?
Simply put, adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows someone to claim a property that’s owned by another. To qualify for an adverse possession claim, a squatter must meet certain basic requirements.
For example, the squatter should be able to demonstrate that they’ve been living in the property for at least 20 years.
What is color of title?
This is something you’ll hear about a lot. Simply, it’s ownership of a property through ‘irregular’ documents. This means owning a property without having at least one of the proper documents.
A squatter may be able to claim color of title once they have been successful in filing their adverse possession claim.
Georgia Squatters’ Rights
The following are the 5 distinct requirements that a squatter in Georgia must meet before making an adverse possession claim.
Requirement #1: The claim must be hostile.
In a legal sense, ‘hostile’ doesn’t allude to violence. In fact, the trespasser does not have to have ill intentions at all. Instead, ‘hostile’ takes three definitions:
- ‘Hostile’ is defined as simple occupation. The trespasser does not have to know who the land or building belongs to.
- Unlike the first definition, here, the trespasser is required to know that they are indeed occupying someone else’s property.
- ‘Hostile’ is defined as a good faith mistake. The trespasser may be relying on an invalid deed to lay claim to the property. As such, they would have made an honest mistake.
Requirement #2: The trespasser must show proof of actual possession.
A claimant making adverse possession must also be able to show proof that they are occupying the property physically. An easy way to show that is by documenting any improvement, maintenance, or beautification efforts.
Requirement #3: The occupation must be obvious to anyone.
This simply means that the occupation must be obvious to everyone, including the actual owner. If the squatter tries to hide the fact that they are living in the property, then that would disqualify them from claiming the property through adverse possession.
Requirement #4: The occupation must be exclusive to them.
The trespasser must not share the property with other people, such as tenants or other squatters.
Requirement #5: The squatter must’ve been living in the property for an uninterrupted period of time.
The squatter must reside in the property for a continuous period of time. In other words, for their adverse possession claim to be valid, they must not have left the property for weeks or months.
Different states have different requirements regarding the period of time a squatter must live in the property. In Georgia, it’s 20 continuous years (or 7 years with color of title) to start an adverse possession claim.
How to Remove Squatters from Your Acworth Property
It’s important that you get rid of squatters from your property before they can get rights to it. The following are a couple of things you can do:
- Serve them an eviction notice as soon as you discover their presence.
- File for an eviction in court once the notice has expired.
- If the court rules in your favor, file for a Writ of Restitution right away.
How to Prevent Squatters from Entering your Property
Once you’ve removed any squatters from your property, you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Here are some tips on how to prevent them from entering your property:
- Regularly inspect your property.
- Ensure that all your entrances are blocked.
- Post ‘No Trespassing’ signs all over the property, especially if it’s unoccupied.
- Hire a qualified property management company to oversee your property.
We Can Help
At Haas Properties, we are well-versed in Georgia laws. As a full-service property management that has been operating in Woodstock and other areas of Northwest Georgia since 2000, we can help take care of your property on your behalf.
Contact us today for more information.