What are Squatter's Rights in NC?
Squatter's Rights are a form of Adverse Possession. Your property may legally, without exchange of payment, belong to a squatter residing there if they stay for a distinct period and meet a set of guidelines according to North Carolina law. Unfortunately, it tends to be homeless people that are guilty of pushing for these rights to own a property while escaping the responsibility of paying for rent.
Preventing this from happening starts with familiarizing yourself with Squatters Rights in NC. If your property is vacant, squatters can put an adverse possession claim.
As a property owner in North Carolina, it's your duty to watch over your property and keep trespassers away. Squatting is a common occurrence and can be a legal way for others to gain property that isn't theirs as long as they meet a set of certain criteria.
A Guide to Squatters Rights in NC
A squatter must have possession of the property for a certain amount of time in order for them to gain rights. In North Carolina, a squatter must occupy your property for a continuous period of twenty (20) years. A continuous residency of the property is required for squatters to legally create an adverse possession claim.
Be aware that squatters in North Carolina don't have to pay property taxes to make an adverse possession claim. Therefore, they don't have to pay anything to try taking over your land.
A squatter must occupy your property in a specific way for them to have rights. In North Carolina, squatter rights can be achieved upon meeting these 5 elements:
Simply occupying your property can be a ground for adverse possession. The squatter doesn't have to be aware of who the legal owner of the property is.
Another definition would be a squatter being aware that they're trespassing on another person's property.
Another scenario would be a squatter acting in good faith. They believe that the deed being held is correct. The squatter is innocent and does not know the status of ownership of the property.
The squatter has taken beautification steps while physically living in the property. This act showcases a sense of ownership. If the squatter shows evidence that property upkeep has been performed, this constitutes as possession of the property.
Open & Notorious Possession
It must be apparent to the public that the squatter is openly residing on the property. The squatter's presence is also evident to the owner of the property. Clearly, the squatter isn't hiding the fact of the property occupation.
Exclusive possession means that the squatter must not share ownership of the property with others. The squatter must singly lay claim to it.
Continuous possession means that the squatter must have lived on the property for a continuous period of twenty (20) years in NC. A squatter can't have an interrupted period then return and stake a claim of ownership.
Other states require a squatter to have color of title to aid the squatter to gain rights. Color of title means that the property ownership isn't regular and some documents may be missing. North Carolina doesn't require a squatter to have color of title to file for an adverse claim.
How to Prevent Squatters from Entering Your Property
As a property owner, there are steps you can take to prevent squatters in your North Carolina property. You must be continuous in monitoring your property if you want to avoid the possibility of taking the matter to court.
Here are ideas to discourage squatters from occupying your property:
- Properties without a tenant tend to attract trespassers so make sure to keep it secure.
- Consider letting a property management company watch over your property to ensure no one is illegally staying in it.
- Hang "No Trespassing" signs in the premises. "No trespassing" signs warn squatters and inform them of your rightful and legal ownership.
- Issue a written notice to vacate to squatters. Perform this action as early as possible when you find out they're living in your property.
- Conduct consistent inspections so you can immediately deal with squatters crossing over your land.
- If the squatter does not heed your order to move out of the property, seek help from a sheriff.
- If you need legal assistance, hire an attorney to manage the problem to ensure you're adhering to the due process.
How to Remove Squatters
As an owner, make sure to remove squatters from your real estate property before they gain rights. In North Carolina, squatting laws when dealing with squatter removals are not specific. Removing them would require the following:
- Following a judicial eviction process
- Asking for aid from the sheriff to remove the squatters
In North Carolina, a disabled owner is categorized as a person who is underage, legally incompetent and imprisoned. The state gives a 'disabled' property owner 3 years to get their property back once the disability has been lifted.
Landlords in North Carolina can stop an adverse possession claim by sending different eviction notices. One of the effective ones for squatters is the Ten-Day Notice to Quit. You'll require the tenant to pay the rent within 10 days otherwise they have to move out of the property.
Even if squatters contest the eviction, it will be tough for them to win the case when there's no valid leasing agreement on hand. As a landlord, you must refrain from using self-eviction methods to forcibly get rid of the squatters. This is illegal.
An alternate option would be to secure a Writ of Possession. This instructs the sheriff to remove the squatter in your premises.
The Bottom Line
At TE Johnson & Sons, we are well versed in North Carolina laws. Keeping your property cared for and occupied by a quality tenant is our number one priority. We assure you that we meticulously monitor the people living in your property -- even the temporarily vacant units.
It's one of our objectives to shield our clients from unwanted squatters living in their real estate property. We value your asset like our own and we promise peace of mind for you when managing your unit.
Disclaimer: This article is in no way a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney in North Carolina. Squatting laws change from time to time, and this post might not be updated at the time of your visit.