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Alabama Law for You

  • Writer's pictureGregory Stanley

Squatters In Alabama?

Updated: May 7

Squatter laws are different in each state so don’t think Alabama will have the same problems as California or Georgia.   In my opinion, Florida probably has the best “squatter” laws, and Alabama is somewhere in the middle as far as protecting people’s rights. 

 

Squatters are people that occupy property without consent of the owner, or some legal right to be there.  Sometimes these squatters look like homeless people but sometimes they turn on the utilities and openly claim to own the property or claim to have a right to be there.


Squatters cause two types of problems for owners in Alabama

 

First, if a squatter claims a right to be there, the police typically won’t remove them until a county judge orders them to do so—and then it would be a county sheriff, not a city police.  You may have read that you must file eviction, well in Alabama an eviction will probably be dismissed, so an action for ejectment must be filed in the circuit court by the owner with title recorded in the county probate records.  These cases can take months to get before the judge.

 

Second, as far as taking ownership from a current owner, “squatters’ rights” don’t really exist (despite what Copilot may say).  Squatting, or being in possession is only one of several legal requirements to successfully claim title.  To be clear, in Alabama, a squatter must show that they have claim to the property, have paid the property taxes in their own name every year, and the property has been assessed in their name for the statutory period.  (10 or 20 years.)


Squatters must show some proof of ownership

 

It is important to understand that the county assessment records bear little legal sway and an assessment does not indicate legal ownership: Only a conveyance (deed or court order) recorded in the probate land record indicates ownership.  But it is a requirement for a squatter attempting to take title in land in Alabama to have the property assessed in their name since the year they claim they have been in possession. 

 

The squatter must also show proof they paid taxes in their own name for the entire time as well.  So you can see, just “squatting,” or being in possession, on a property doesn’t give a person any ownership rights; they must also record some type of title or claim, assess the property with the county, and pay taxes for at least 10 years.  If the squatter in possession doesn’t have some kind of document recorded in the county probate records, they must have the property assessed, pay taxes, and stay in possession for 20 years.


Real-world Squatter

 

It may seem impossible to meet all these requirements, but about 15 years ago, a lady passed away right up the road from my old office.  The neighbor went to the courthouse, and I don’t know what she told the clerk, but the clerk assessed the property into the neighbor’s name without any recorded conveyance, deed, will, or court order.  

 

Now, 15 years on, the house is rented out and the neighbor acts like she has always owned it.  It’s assessed in her name, she pays the taxes in her own name, and she has leased the property to various tenants which shows she was in possession as owner.  Unless an heir or creditor is willing to challenge the new “owner” she can quiet the title at the 20-year point.  But until then, the real heirs could open probate in the deceased owner’s name or sue and take title and possession back.


 Who is NOT a Squatter?

 

Not everyone who occupies a property without permission 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. Former owners after foreclosure are not squatters. 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.


Oh, and your adult children are probably not squatters. 



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