What is the Law on Squatters in Arizona?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What is a Squatter?

Arizona Laws Regarding Squatters

Duration of Possession

Adverse or Hostile Possession

Exclusive Possession

Continuous Possession

Open and Notorious Possession

Color of Title Claims

Property Owner Rights When Dealing with Squatters

FAQs About Squatters in Arizona

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One of the best ways to earn passive income is to own real estate and rent it out to others. However, in some cases, a person may live on a property even though they don’t own it or pay rent. When this happens, the person is called a squatter; sometimes, they may have a legal claim to the property.

Since squatter’s rights are handled differently in each state, it’s imperative to understand how they work in Arizona. If you own property or are dealing with a squatter, here’s everything you need to know about the situation.

What is a Squatter?

A squatter is someone who lives on a property illegally and makes no effort to hide their presence. To an outside observer, a squatter can look like a legal property owner or tenant, and the person may even do renovations or upgrades to the building. However, a squatter does not own the property and does not have express permission from the actual property owner to live there.

Squatting vs. Trespassing

Although a squatter is trespassing on a property, they’re not considered trespassers unless they conceal their presence. So, someone who comes and goes at night and is careful to avoid being seen would be a trespasser. Someone who comes and goes as if they own or rent the place would be considered a squatter, legally speaking.

Arizona Laws Regarding Squatters

When a squatter has a legal claim to a property, that’s called adverse possession. When this law is triggered, the actual property owner may have little to no recourse to reclaim the property, even if they have all the proper documentation. Here is a rundown of a squatter’s various qualifications before claiming rights.

Duration of Possession

A squatter must live on the property for at least five to 13 years to even consider claiming rights. The exact timeline depends on a few factors, such as:

  • Renovations and Upgrades – If a squatter has renovated the property, they only have to live on-site for five years.
  • Land Cultivation – If they cultivate the land and make no upgrades to the building, they must live there for at least 10 years.

In all other cases, a squatter living in a place for 13 years or more can claim rights.

Adverse or Hostile Possession

In Arizona, for a possession to be “hostile,” it means that the squatter lives on the premises without the property owner’s knowledge or consent. The squatter does not have to know that they are trespassing, either, for their claim to be legally valid. If a property owner gives written permission for the squatter to stay on-site, the person cannot make a claim to the property.

Exclusive Possession

Squatting only occurs when someone is living in a single-family home or similar property. Apartment renters and tenants cannot make a claim to their unit because other people live within the building. Similarly, if a squatter shares a property with other individuals, they cannot make a valid claim unless one can prove exclusive possession of the property.

Continuous Possession

For a squatter to claim rights, they must live on the premises continuously for the specified period (i.e., five, 10, or 13 years). While they can leave for short durations (i.e., a vacation), they cannot move out and then back in and still claim possession. In this case, the possession term would start when they moved back to the property.

Open and Notorious Possession

As we mentioned, the primary difference between a squatter and a trespasser is that a squatter makes no effort to hide their residency. As far as anyone else is concerned, the squatter has every legal right to live on the premises.

Color of Title Claims

In legal terminology, a Color of Title claim is when someone gains official possession of land or property without any paperwork (i.e., a deed). Arizona allows for Color of Title claims as long as the squatter has lived on-site for at least three years.

Property Owner Rights When Dealing with Squatters

Fortunately, as a property owner, you have the power to evict squatters if they’re living on your property illegally. In Arizona, the eviction process is relatively quick, but the more documentation and evidence you can supply, the easier it will be to succeed.

Additionally, if you provide written permission for a squatter to live on the premises, they can’t make an adverse possession claim. Since they’re living on-site with your knowledge and permission, you can remain the property owner, even if the person meets all other requirements.

FAQs About Squatters in Arizona

I’ve just inherited a property with squatters – what can I do?

First, make yourself known and find out how long the squatters have lived on the property illegally. Next, you may want to decide whether to charge the squatters rent or if you want to have them move out so you can fix and flip the building.

In many cases, squatters don’t know they’re breaking the law, so it might be easiest to discuss the situation with them directly. However, you must also avoid making promises or discussing anything official without documentation and verification. For example, if you set up a verbal agreement for the squatter to pay rent, you must also verify that in writing in case the squatter reneges on the deal.

What is the process for evicting a squatter in Arizona?

If the squatter has no legal rights and they were not an official tenant, you can simply file eviction paperwork with the court. In most cases, the court can enforce an eviction within 24 to 48 hours (excluding weekends). However, depending on the situation, a squatter may be able to make a case to extend or appeal the eviction, especially if they’ve lived on-site for an extended period (i.e., a year or more).

Get Help with Your Property from Unbiased Options

Dealing with squatters can be stressful if you try to handle the situation yourself. Let Unbiased Options be your best resource during this difficult time so you can reclaim your property and move on to the next stage. Contact us today to find out more.

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