The state of North Carolina recognizes the fundamental right of squatters. According to the legal doctrine of Adverse Possession, a squatter in North Carolina can gain legal possession of a property without paying any compensation for it.
As a property owner, it’s important that you understand the North Carolina rental laws and squatters’ rights so you can prevent losing your property to them. If you understand the law and plan carefully, you can avoid having any issues with squatters in your property. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the legal rights that squatters have in the state of North Carolina.
Who is a squatter?
A squatter is a person that occupies a property, whether it’s a building or some land, without paying rent for it or having legal ownership of it. While they have no legal title to the land they’re occupying, they can eventually acquire it.
What is the difference between squatting and trespassing?
A squatter isn’t necessarily trespassing. Trespassing is a criminal offense, whereas squatting is typically considered civil in nature. However, a squatter may eventually be considered a criminal if the property owner files for their removal.
Is a holdover tenant a squatter?
Not at all. A holdover tenant is someone who continues to live on the property after their lease agreement has expired. A landlord can choose to continue accepting rent payments from them, in which case the holdover tenant will live on the property at the landlord’s will. In that case, the landlord can choose to end their tenancy at any time.
If a landlord refuses to accept rent payments, the tenant will have no option but to leave the property. They may do this at their free will, but if they do not, they will get evicted.
What are squatter’s rights in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, a squatter can file for Adverse Possession of the property after living there for at least 20 continuous years. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-38, et seq; 1-17 (2015)). The squatter cannot leave the property for weeks or months and then attempt to make a claim of Adverse Possession.
- Besides having continuous possession of the property, a squatter must also:
- Occupy the partner by themselves. If they share it with strangers, tenants, or the actual owner, they cannot make an Adverse Possession claim.
- Make it obvious that they are occupying the property, even to the property owner themselves.
- Treat the property as if it were their own. This includes maintaining and renovating the property.
A squatter must also be able to make a “hostile claim” to the property. In a legal sense, hostile has three definitions. The first is “simple occupation,” which is the definition most states use regarding squatters. This means that the trespasser does not need to know that they are occupying someone else’s property. The second definition is “awareness of trespassing” which means that the squatter is aware that they are squatting and have no legal rights to the property.
The final definition is “good faith mistake” meaning that they are occupying the property because of a reasonable judgment error. For example, they may in fact think the property belongs to them because of an incorrect or invalid deed.
If the squatter is able to meet these requirements, then they can legally claim ownership of the property. At that point, the squatter becomes the legal property owner.
Does a squatter need to pay property taxes?
Different states have different requirements in regards to whether squatters need to pay property taxes in order to make an Adverse Possession Claim. In the state of North Carolina, however, this isn’t the case. A squatter does not need to pay taxes to make an Adverse Possession Claim.
Can having Color of Title strengthen a case for Adverse Possession in NC?
Color of Title, otherwise known as “apparent title”, is the appearance of a legally enforceable right of ownership. Typically there is a document that purports ownership to the land however the document is missing information, meaning it does not take effect. The state of North Carolina does not require squatters to have correct documents to make an Adverse Possession claim.
How do you get rid of squatters from your North Carolina property?
Remove squatters from your property isn’t as simple as locking them out or threatening them to get them to leave. To get rid of squatters legally, you must follow the judicial eviction process.
The first thing you’ll need to do is serve the squatter with a 10-days’ Notice to Quit. This will give the squatter 10 days to move out before facing an eviction. If they do not move out of the property, you’ll need to move to court to seek for their intervention.
If the court judges in your favor, they’ll direct the sheriff through a Writ of Possession document to evict the squatter. Please note that it’s illegal to self-evict the squatters. This involves performing actions such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities.
How do you protect yourself from squatters?
To protect yourself from running into the issue of having squatters, you should do the following:
- Regularly inspect your property.
- Secure your property by blocking all entrances.
- Erect signs around the property stating that there is no trespassing in the property.
- Hire an experienced property management company to take care of your property on your behalf.
At Schambs Property Management, we have a team of trusted, experienced, and knowledgeable property managers that understand the law. We can help you navigate your way through the legal rights of squatters should you find them on your property.
Additionally, if you’re looking to fill your vacant property with quality tenants, maintain your property through regular inspections, or simply evict stubborn tenants, we can help. Get in touch with us TODAY!