Finding out that there is a squatter living in your property is frustrating. Unfortunately, a squatter isn’t someone that you can just wish away. Removing them can take months and sometimes even years.
The best way to avoid having issues with squatters is to prevent them from living on your property in the first place. In this article, we’ll cover the best way to do this. We’ll also provide an overview of the squatters’ laws in Idaho, including the rights that squatters’ have to take over ownership of your property.
As a landlord, it’s important to have a working knowledge of both the Idaho landlord-tenant laws as well as the Idaho squatters’ laws. This will help prevent you from running into any legal issues with your property, your tenants, or potential squatters.
Who is a squatter?
A squatter is anyone that occupies property without lawful permission from the owner. A squatter doesn’t pay rent and usually occupy properties that have been abandoned, foreclosed, or left unoccupied.
A squatter can eventually get legal ownership rights to the property as long as they meet all the legal requirements. The requirements are defined under Idaho’s adverse possession law. If a squatter cannot meet these requirements, they will not be able to gain legal ownership of the property and can be charged in court for criminal trespassing.
Who is a trespasser?
Squatting and trespassing are not the same things. Squatting is a civil issue, whereas trespassing is a criminal offense. However, squatting can become trespassing once the owner files an unlawful detainer lawsuit against the squatter.
Is a holdover tenant considered a trespasser?
It depends. A holdover tenant can become a trespasser if a landlord files a lawsuit against them for unlawful detainer. At this point, they become ineligible to make an adverse possession claim and are viewed as criminal trespassers.
However, if the landlord chooses to continue accepting rent payments from the holdover tenant, then the tenant can continue to live in the property at the landlord’s will. Living at the landlord’s will means that the landlord can evict them at a moment’s notice.
What is color of title?
Color of title is a legal term that means that a person claiming ownership doesn’t have one or more of the necessary legal documents to make an adverse possession claim. This means that the property that they are laying a claim to isn’t properly registered.
In Idaho, a squatter must meet this requirement in order to make a successful legal adverse possession claim.
What are squatters’ rights in Idaho?
Squatters in Idaho have some basic rights. For example, they cannot be kicked out of the property without proper legal notice. Squatters also have the right to claim legal ownership of a property after meeting all of the adverse possession requirements.
In Idaho, a squatter must have the continuous occupation of a property for 20 years before they can make an adverse possession claim. They must also meet the following 6 legal requirements:
1. Continuous Possession
A squatter wishing to make an adverse possession claim must reside in the property for at least 20 continuous years. This period must be uninterrupted and the squatter cannot have left the property for weeks or months, as that would disqualify their claim to the property.
2. Exclusive Possession
Under this requirement, a squatter must be the only person living on the property. Sharing the property with others would render their adverse possession claim null and void.
3. Open & Notorious
In a legal sense, open and notorious possession of the property means that the squatter’s occupation of the property must be obvious to the general public, including the property owner. Attempting to hide their residence would also automatically disqualify the squatter’s adverse possession claim.
4. Actual Possession
Under the requirement of actual possession, the squatter is required to make use of the property as the owner would. For example, by physically living there and improving or beautifying the property.
In this case, the improvement of the land or property is actually an additional requirement for a claimant of adverse possession. If not met, a squatter would not be able to make an adverse possession claim.
5. Hostile Claim
In a legal interpretation, ‘hostile’ doesn’t connote something violent or dangerous. Rather, it takes on one of the following 3 definitions:
- Simple Occupation: Most states follow this definition of a hostile claim. ‘Hostile’ is taken to mean that the trespasser occupied the property without knowledge of who the actual owner was.
- Awareness of Trespassing: This is the exact opposite of the first definition. Here, the squatter would know who the property belonged to when they occupied the property.
- Good Faith Mistake: Here, the squatter is assumed to rely on an invalid deed to make their occupation of the property.
In Idaho, a squatter must have not only had the continuous occupation of the property for 20 years but they must also have paid property taxes for the entire 20 years.
How to protect your property from squatters:
- Serve the squatter with an eviction notice as soon as you realize their occupation.
- Secure your property by blocking all entrances.
- Make sure to inspect the property on a regular basis.
- Place “no trespassing” signs throughout the property. This is especially important if the property isn’t occupied.
- Hire a qualified lawyer to help you with legal advice if you do end up with squatters.
- Hire a competent property management company to help you find a desirable tenant for your Boise property.
How to remove Squatters from your Idaho property
If there are squatters already living in your property, then you need to begin the eviction process immediately. You must serve the squatter with an eviction notice that gives them two options: pay all due rent (plus any fees) or move out.
If the squatter doesn’t take either option and continues living there, your next step is to file a forcible detainer lawsuit. This is simply a legal request asking the court for their intervention to help you remove a tenant that is in violation of the rules.
At Realty Management Associates, Inc., we’re well-versed with the Idaho squatters’ laws. If you hire us, we’ll help find a good tenant for your property and care for it on your behalf so that you don’t end up having squatters. Contact us for more information!