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Squatter's rights refers to rights to live on land which is title-owned by an entity that hasn't given permission.
In the United States, depending on the state, squatters can have legal rights to stolen, non-government property. However, these rights only apply after having continuously lived in the property in a, "notorious", and, "open", manner, and maintained the land for 7 to 30 years after the owner stopped occupying the property.
Squatter's rights are the subject of much controversy in market economies. Many mortgage payers and renters call it a crank practice that is guided by either bleeding-heart, overzealous do-goodism, or inaccurate notions of citizenship, depending on the situation. Proponents of squatter's rights consider such rights a weapon against overly-authoritarian attitudes toward property that is necessary for human survival. They often use "squatter's rights" campaigns to get the homeless a home, for example.
- 1 General crankery and abuse of the concept
- 2 Is it legal?
- 3 Why are there squatter's rights nowadays?
- 4 See also
- 5 References
General crankery and abuse of the concept
Many squatters might try to abuse the system by falsely claiming the legal rights to land that they had squatted on for far less than the statutory minimum amount of time needed to successfully claim adverse possession.
Is it legal?
The media journalist Christine DiGangi notes that the term, "squatter", is not a legal term.
While the term, "squatter's rights", is rare in legalese, having only been used in federal United States code in ch. 261, §2(a), 58 Stat. 279, squatting can count as an intentional attempt at legal adverse possession, with real possibility of success.
Intentional vs unintentional squatting
US law does not distinguish between unintentional and intentional squatting when it says such squatters can legally claim adverse possession after having maintained stolen land for a statutory minimum of years.
Conflicting incentives creates drama
Squatting is technically illegal in the USA until the statutory minimum amount of years required to claim adverse possession, but possibly fully legally sanctioned after that, if it was done, "openly", and, "notoriously". This creates drama as squatters are incentivized to make themselves publicly, rather than privately, fugitive, at the same time as authorities are incentivized to lock them up before the minimum amount of years required to claim adverse possession.
The likelihood of a successful squatter is dependent on the will and interest of the local police force and surrounding community. Without such, the squatter may be successful. Lawyers, prosecutors, and local police are often reluctant to pursue squatters, in order to avoid violent conflict, which delays their eviction by years. Successful adverse possession is very, very difficult nowadays. Quite often, the situation escalates into a local news story due to the drama inherent to the attempt at adverse possession.
The media landlord journalist, "Scott Smith", argues that the possibility of legally claiming adverse possession of stolen land, after intentionally squatting in it, is "very real" in the US. Although he notes that one needs to properly maintain the property, including perhaps paying property taxes, and for at least 7 years, depending on the state.
Why are there squatter's rights nowadays?
Squatters are generally looked down upon by modern property owners, mortgage payers, and renters. This begs the question of why squatter's rights exists at all nowadays, given that property owners, mortgage payers, and renters usually have much more political power than squatters in general, disregarding laws about property.
Previously generous attitudes towards squatting
Some attribute the general idea of squatter's rights to more generous attitudes toward squatting that existed prior to our current system of property rights. The "Code of Hammurabi", in 2000 BCE let squatters claim house, garden, or field only after maintaining it for three years. Ancient Romans were even more generous toward squatters, considering them of greater, "ownership", to land than the title owner, given proper maintenance, without a particularly long time-frame of maintenance. While others attribute the origin of squatter's rights to the first adverse possession clauses in old English law. The first adverse possession laws in Britain were created to deal with the fact that record-keeping of property rights was difficult at the time.
Squatter's rights as compromise
Squatter's rights are also given as compromise to appease a particularly pro-squatter democratic political base. For example, a 1985 Democratic Party primary in New York City hinged partially on the generosity of the government toward illegal squatters in 25 vacant buildings. The end result was that the government let ACORN give the illegal squatters homesteading rights in return for limited government right of resale of the property.
Squatters in poor countries can become so numerous that they reach the levels of, "informal settlements". For example, "informal settlement" squatters in the Philippines are often relocated to outskirts of a city as a compromise, instead of being arrested.
Prolonging squatting to avoid violent conflict
Cliven Bundy has been described by others as a "squatter" for refusing to leave his ranch after defaulting on grazing fees, and grazing on public lands without a permit. Bundy is arguably close to the sovereign citizen movement, which is comprised of far-right conservatives who automatically reject government authority. Although, Bundy's bunch are arguably closer to the 1970s Sagebrush movement, which opposed government ownership of public lands.
The Bundy situation resulted in authorities going into a prolonged standoff with the Bundys, resulting in 41 days of very public squatting on public land.
People who describe as sovereign citizens are often very keen on owning guns, and have been known to file bogus deeds for properties. They have also been known to change locks on properties to illegally "rent" them out, all across the USA. Their illegal activity has been met with prolonged investigation so that an adequate number of authorities can respond to potentially-violent scenarios.
- Rob Bridgman. WHEN POSSESSION REALLY IS NINE TENTHS OF THE LAW… Gowling WLG. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- James Herring. YOU PROBABLY DON’T HAVE "SQUATTER'S RIGHTS" WIELING and HARRING. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Emily Doskow. Adverse Possession: When Trespassers Become Property Owners NOLO. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Michael Lewis. What Are Squatters Rights? State-by-State Guide to Squatters Rights SparkRental. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Scott Smith. Squatters: What’s Legal, What’s Not, & How to Get Rid of Them BiggerPockets. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Chan Lowe. Chan Lowe: Squatters in South Florida South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Douglas. if they think an average person is physically equipped to take on a gang of squatters... Commenter on Nearlylegal.com. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Christine DiGangi. Do squatters actually have rights? Credit. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Dallas. Criminal Tresspassing, Squatters Retail Investors of Virginia. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- bluedevil2k. There's no such thing as “squatters rights” or anything or a statute of limitations. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- NuWire. Myth of Mexican Property Ownership NuWire Investor. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Anonymous columnist. Squatters’ Rights: Guide to State Law & How-To Evict American Apartment Owners Association. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- US legal code Sixty Sixth Congress. Session II. Chs. 209-2011. 1920. Page 629. US Congress. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Joseph G. Ballstaedt. https://www.racinelaw.net/blog/strange-doctrine-adverse-possession-origins/ Racine Law. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Steven Erlanger. New York Turns Squatters Into Homeowners New York Times. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Brian Gardiner. Squatters' Rights and Adverse Possession: A Search for Equitable Application of Property Laws page 144. Indiana International & Comparative Law Review. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Aurora Almendral. After Years of Living as Squatters, These Filipino Neighbors Fought for Nice, New Homes in Their Community—And Won Yes Magazine. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Mary Papenfuss. Range Squatter Cliven Bundy Prepared To ‘Walk Towards Guns’ In Biden Administration Huffington Post. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Salvador Hernandez. Ryan Bundy Helped Lead Two Armed Standoffs Against The Government. Now He's Running A Conspiracy-Laced Campaign For Governor. Buzzfeed. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.
- Sarah Netter. Anti-Government Sovereign Citizens Taking Foreclosed Homes Using Phony Deeds, Authorities Say ABC News. Retrieved February 2nd, 2021.