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Real Estate Blog

Nov 4, 2011
12:34 PM

The Squatter Phenomenon

Protect your property against this growing trend

The Squatter Phenomenon

There is a growing trend in the Detroit metro area called squatting.

Squatters are people who illegally occupy a residence or use property without a lease or permission from the owner. This phenomenon seems to be increasing as more people face the loss of their home. Whether vacant because of foreclosure or abandoned for another reason, empty homes and other buildings are targets for squatters.

What is the best course of action if you own a rental property and someone moves in without your permission? Should you:

A. Call the police and report them for breaking and entering?
B. Send them an eviction notice?
C. Change the locks on your doors and throw their items out?

(The first person to email Jaye at jayesimpson@realtor.com with the correct answer will receive a special gift from her. She will reveal the correct answer in her next blog post.)

Michigan’s Adverse Possession law states that if someone who is not the owner of a property does the following three things, they could become the owner:

  • Occupies a property openly for anyone to see
  • Possesses a property exclusively
  • Possesses the property without the owners’ permission

Squatters must occupy the property for 15 years before they can petition the court for ownership rights. If they meet the criteria outlined above, they can usurp your ownership and gain title to land or a home through adverse possession. You could lose your rights to your property or home.

Another way to gain ownership of land or property under the Michigan Adverse Possession law is by encroachment. An encroachment can be a driveway, fence, retaining wall, deck, pool or shed over your property line. An encroachment could result in the title of a portion of your property being transferred to an adverse possessor. Under these circumstances, you might have to bring a lawsuit for trespass in order to prevent someone from getting title to your land through adverse possession.

If you own land, it is important that you be aware of your rights. Respond quickly to anyone who occupies your property without permission.

Please send your real estate questions to me! I would be happy to answer them in my next column.

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