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Alabama Law for You

  • Writer's pictureGregory Stanley

Squatting now a Crime in Alabama

Updated: May 17

Alabama Governor signed the law that squatters can be charged with a crime.  The anti-squatting law will take effect June 1, 2024. This is important because up until if there wasn't a judge's order law enforcement just said "It's a civil matter, we can't get involved."


This could be the best anti-squatter law in the country. It’s called HB 182 and it’s now the law.  (See my previous article on Alabama Squatters.) (You have heard me say Florida had the best anti-squatter law; you can read about the Florida law here.


If you have a problem right now, skip to the last section of this article, but for a more complete understanding, this article clarifies and corrects a lot of the bad info on the internet: I just read several articles from real estate gurus on Alabama squatter laws, and while I’m not saying all those articles are wrong (some of them are dead wrong), they all seem to leave out important facts. 


Title

Alabama Squatters Almost Never Get Title

To put your mind at ease, know that while people make a big deal about the physical possession requirement, in Alabama a squatter must also pay the taxes and have the property assessed in their name for the entire time (10 or 20 years).  We have won every case we have defended against squatters because the squatters don't meet all the requirements. 

 

Adverse possession requires that a person has exclusive possession, but also they have the property assessed in their own name, and they alone pay taxes in their own name for the required number of years. 


Ten or Twenty years?

Alabama law says that if you have “color of title,” assess, and pay taxes then you only have to possess it for 10 years.  Without “color of title” you have to possess, assess, and pay taxes for 20 years.  Color of title is NOT what the online gurus say. Color of title is a recorded document purporting to convey title to the adverse possessor.


Some people try to meet that 20-year adverse possession requirement by assessing the property under their name “as agent for heirs of (decedent).”   That makes it so no one can quiet the title based on adverse possession no matter who they are. In the eyes of the law the owner has been paying taxes so no one can get title by adverse possession.

 

Tricks that Don’t Work for Squatters

Another trick is when one heir assesses and pays taxes then tries to quiet title against the other heirs.  The law generally says you cannot adversely possess against other heirs because they are “co-tenants.”

 

Some squatters think they can cut the time from 20 years to ten years by saying they have color of title based on assessing and paying taxes.  In Alabama, “color of title” means a document that was recorded in the probate land records purporting to convey the property.  The key there is it had to be recorded ten years ago.

 

Fake leases are another “squatter trick.”  The problem for the squatter is that by law a tenant legally holds possession by and through the landlord.  So, a tenant can never be in adverse possession, and case law shows us a tenant cannot convert their tenancy into adverse possession. The new law has tightened the noose on fake leases; see the section below on HB 182.


So, you can see, just moving in and exclusively possessing the property by openly keeping everyone else out is not enough to take title, no matter how long you do it.


Taking Back Possession

Some Bad Advice Online

Some online gurus tell you to employ “self help” against squatters.  They say, just move in and take back possession or change the locks and throw out the personal property.  One popular property management company said, “immediately file eviction!”  All of these are just bad ideas.  Take back possession without breaching the peace—or you may need another kind of lawyer.


 The New Alabama HB182 2024 is Good News

HB 182 passed the House and Senate and is sitting on the Governor’s desk as of 4 May 2024.  The text of the bill is here.   


Essentially, the purpose of the bill is to make squatting a crime under AL Code 13A-7-7, Burglary 3rd Degree, a class C Felony.  The new verbiage says that anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a dwelling or occupied building or unoccupied building and stays with the intent of committing a crime commits burglary 3rd.   It goes on to say that if the person enters and causes $1000 of damage that is burglary as well. 


The new law goes on to say that if the occupant swears they have a lease or deed, or if they present a fake lease or deed so they can remain on the property, they are guilty of perjury. 


How YOU can get Rid of Squatters

 The best thing about the new law is it provides a way to get your property back from squatters without going to court. After filing appropriate papers and an affidavit Law enforcement is directed to wait 24 hours then “serve a notice to immediately vacate on the unauthorized individual.”  The owner must have already provided written notice to the occupants and show proof of such when providing the property owners’ affidavit to law enforcement. 


The affidavit is long and costs $50 to file, but it seems to give law enforcement the authority to arrest anyone on the property for trespass or any outstanding warrant. 


Is someone squatting in or on your property? Let's discuss how the new law can help you. Start by reaching out to us here Stanley & Associates and we can help with this.




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