Does Arizona Have Squatter’s Rights?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What are Squatter’s Rights?

What are the Rules for Squatters in Arizona?

What Can a Property Owner Do to Remove Squatters?

Can Squatters Occupy any Property?

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Typically, when a property owner and a tenant are two different people, the tenant pays the property owner rent to live on the property. However, this doesn’t always happen (for various reasons), meaning that the tenant could be a squatter.

As a squatter, the tenant may technically live on the premises illegally, but if they meet certain requirements, the state can grant them the property. So, property owners must understand squatter’s rights in Arizona and how they can be triggered. With that in mind, let’s break down the law and see how this process works.

What are Squatter’s Rights?

First and foremost, it’s imperative to differentiate between squatters and trespassers. Technically speaking, a squatter is trespassing, but they act as if they live on the property.

Overall, the difference between the two entities is that a trespasser lives onsite in secret, trying to hide their presence as much as possible. Conversely, a squatter is open about their presence and may act as if they are the legal owners or renters of the property.

So, when talking about squatter’s rights, a person must fulfill the definition of a squatter to get any rights at all. In Arizona, these rights are called adverse possession, and squatters must meet some specific qualifications for these rights to kick in.

What are the Rules for Squatters in Arizona?

The circumstances for someone to claim squatter’s rights in Arizona are as follows:

  • Duration of Residency – For someone to be considered a squatter, they must have lived on the property for at least five to 13 years. The exact number of years depends on a few factors, which we’ll discuss as we move down the list.
  • Continuous Residency – The squatter must prove that they’ve lived on the premises uninterrupted for a long enough time. For example, if a squatter lives in a house for a year, then moves out, and moves back after three years, they can’t claim that they’ve been squatting the whole time.
  • Obvious Residency – If the squatter tries to hide their presence on the property, they’ll most likely be treated as trespassers. Squatters live openly and make it obvious that they live onsite. If the squatter has made improvements to the building, they only need to live onsite for five years instead of 13. However, if they’ve only developed or cultivated the land, the time reduces to 10 years.
  • No Shared Residency – If multiple people or families live on a property, none of them can claim squatter’s rights because it’s impossible to tell who would have a legitimate claim of adverse ownership. For example, if a property is a duplex with squatters in each unit, neither of them could claim squatter’s rights.
  • The Claim Must Be Hostile – A “hostile” claim in Arizona means that the squatter doesn’t own the property legally. Whether the squatter knows they are trespassing is irrelevant when making their case.

Knowing these details, you may ask when an adverse possession claim would be possible. While these claims aren’t exactly common, they’re not as rare as you might think. Some examples could include:

  • Change of Ownership – Let’s say the original property owner sells to someone else who doesn’t do anything with the property for at least five years. In this case, the squatter may unknowingly be paying rent to the old owner or stop paying because no one is trying to collect it.
  • Death of a Property Owner – In this case, the original property owner may die and leave the inheritance to a family member. If the family member isn’t aware of their ownership title or takes a long time to inspect the property, squatter’s rights could apply.
  • Unclaimed Property – A squatter may move into an abandoned property and start fixing it up and making it their own. Since the squatter assumes the owner is absent and doesn’t care about the property, they wouldn’t try to find the owner and instead claim ownership themselves.

What Can a Property Owner Do to Remove Squatters?

If a property owner can prove ownership of a property and that the squatters are living onsite illegally, they can start the eviction process. However, it’s imperative to know all the details of the situation before going to court just in case the squatter can claim rights.

For example, if you notice squatters on your property, you should document when they first arrived and whether they are living on the premises openly or secretly. If the individuals are trespassers, you can trigger an immediate eviction.

The eviction process in Arizona can take anywhere from a few days to six or eight weeks. Overall, the more prepared you are with documentation and evidence, the smoother and faster it will be to evict a squatter.

That said, if enough time has passed and the squatter meets all the requirements, there may be little you can do to overturn the court’s decision of adverse possession. So, the sooner you can act, the better.

Can Squatters Occupy any Property?

Yes, a squatter can live on developed or undeveloped property. As we mentioned, if a squatter only cultivates the land and makes no improvements to buildings on the land, the time for an adverse possession claim is 10 years.

Also, remember that squatters can’t gain legal rights to squat in a multi-unit property with others living inside. For example, if someone is staying illegally in a vacant apartment, they can’t claim rights to that apartment since the building includes shared residency.

Get Help with Your Property from Unbiased Options

Learning that you have a squatter on your property can be devastating, but you have multiple options to remove the squatter and reclaim your property. At Unbiased Options, we’ll work with you to ensure you get the best results possible during an eviction or adverse possession case. Contact us today to learn more.

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