Typically, squatters occupy vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties.
Missouri gives squatters certain rights. If a squatter living in your property makes a successful adverse possession claim, they will gain legal ownership of the property. What’s more, they won’t need to pay you anything for it. You’ll simply lose your piece of real estate.
Getting rid of a squatter can be extremely challenging, especially with an adverse possession claim in the mix. The process can be stressful and time-consuming.
That’s why, as a landlord in Missouri, understanding the state’s squatters’ rights is key.
In this post, we are offering a basic overview of squatters’ rights in Missouri.
Who exactly is a squatter?
A squatter is someone who occupies a building, land or home without the owner’s consent. If they live in the unit for a certain period of time, they may be able to own it legally through a successful adverse possession claim.
To help you better understand, let’s suppose you own a home. You have plans to develop it and make it a short-term vacation rental. However, you only plan to do this in few years. You never check on this home.
11 years later, you unexpectedly get an official letter in your mailbox. It’s addressed to you and tells you that someone has applied to take legal possession of your property adversely.
As you come to learn, the person making the claim has been living on the property for the last 11 years. Of course, you call your attorney and brief them of the situation. Sadly, you realize there is little that can be done to salvage the property. The squatter has met all requirements to make an adverse possession claim on the property.
Now, you’ve lost your potential income property to a stranger. And even worse, you get nothing in return – not even a penny!
Needless to say, an adverse possession claim is every Missouri landlord’s worst nightmare.
What’s the difference between a squatter and a trespasser?
In property law, squatting and trespassing are terms that have two different meanings.
Trespassing is when someone is on a private property without the consent of the owner. It’s illegal.
Conversely, squatting is when someone occupies a vacant or abandoned property without the owner’s permission. They intend to live there, but they don’t own it or pay rent.
What is a holdover tenant?
A holdover tenant is one who remains on their rented premises after their lease has expired. They aren’t considered squatters. This means that you must deal with them in a different way.
In such a situation, you have two options you may pursue:
- Continue renting to the tenant at the existing rate and terms. The tenant lives on the property ‘at your will.’ This means that you can evict them at any time.
- Ask the tenant to leave. Here, you’ll need to serve the tenant with an eviction notice. If they don’t leave after the notice period, you can move to court and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit against them. Once you’ve done that, the tenant becomes a criminal trespasser.
How can a squatter take possession of your Missouri home?
In the U.S., a squatter must meet all requirements of adverse possession before making a legal claim.
The following are the distinct legal requirements:
1. Actual Possession. This requires that the squatter be physically present on the property. They must also be able to show proof that they have been taking care of it just like the owner would. For example, they could have taken care of it by fencing the land, planting flowers and vegetables, and pruning bushes.
2. Continuous Possession. In the state of Missouri, it takes 10 years of continuous occupation for a squatter to claim a property adversely. ‘Continuous’ here means that the entire 10 years must be uninterrupted.
3. Exclusive Possession. Living exclusively means that they must not share the property with other people, such as tenants, strangers, or even another squatter.
4. Open & Notorious Possession. The occupation must also be obvious to anyone. Even the owner should be able to tell that there is someone living there.
5. Hostile Claim. Lastly, the squatter must be able to make a hostile claim on the property. In property law, this doesn’t connote to anything violent or dangerous. Instead, it takes on three distinct definitions. One definition defines ‘hostile’ as mere occupation of a land. The other definition requires that the trespasser knows of their trespassing actions. And the last one assumes the squatter has made an innocent good faith mistake by relying on an incorrect deed.
How can a landlord get rid of a squatter in Missouri?
Just like other states, Missouri doesn’t have special eviction laws for removing squatters. As such, you’ll need to follow the state’s judicial eviction process to remove them. You’ll need to serve them an eviction notice, and then file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in court.
As a Missouri tenant, you want to avoid having a squatter in your vacant property.
Squatters have rights, and they can eventually gain legal ownership of your property. Not to mention, removing a squatter from your unit can be quite challenging and time-consuming.
We hope this post was informative. If you have further questions or require more help, contact Young Management today.
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this information may not be updated at the time of your reading.