A squatter is someone who occupies a building without legal permission. Squatters are often previous owners or tenants of a house who refuse to leave, and under the premise of squatters rights, they may have a case. If you bought a house and found it occupied by squatters, you need to know what you’re up against.
What Are Squatters Rights?
For someone to be a squatter in Kentucky, they must occupy an abandoned or unoccupied residential building without legal permission. This building can be a foreclosure or an abandoned property.
You can find Kentucky squatters rights in the Kentucky Adverse Possession Laws. These laws were written so that property owners would diligently sell their property when they moved out or the property became unoccupied. Adverse Possession Laws across the United States have worked in squatters favor because they allow squatters to occupy a residential property, make improvements, and ultimately establish residency.
How Do Squatters Rights Work?
What may seem like trespassing to you and me actually may be legal to squatters. If someone occupying abandoned or vacant real estate makes improvements to the building, like planting flowers or painting the house, they go from a trespasser to a property owner.
There are criteria that a squatter must meet before they are given rights, and they are as follows:
- The squatter must occupy the property for 15 consecutive years
- There must be a hostile claim
- The property must not be occupied in secret
- The squatter must be present and making improvements to the property
- The property must not be shared with anyone else
The squatter must prove all of the above criteria for squatter rights to work. If just one of these criteria is not met, the squatter has no rights to the property they are occupying.
One of the most common mistakes squatters make is falsifying documents to make the property look like their own. Falsifying documents in this manner is illegal and can get the squatter arrested.
Once a property owner or landlord knows that a squatter has not met the criteria they need to claim squatter rights, the property owner can evict them. However, if all of the criteria have been met for the squatter to have squatters rights, the true owner will need to get a lawyer and prove ownership in court. At this point, it may be difficult to convince a court to agree with you that you are the property owner if you’re not the one who is making improvements to the property.
This is why squatters rights were created. It puts the burden on property owners to take care of their property. When you have a squatter making improvements to the property, it can be difficult for the property owner to make a case for why they are the better true owner.
How to Evict a Squatter
Squatters in Kentucky must be served an eviction notice by the property owner giving them 7 days to pay rent. The property owner determines what amount of rent the squatter must pay. The formal eviction notice will be filed in court, allowing the squatter to challenge the eviction. If the eviction is challenged by the squatter, they can lengthen their stay at the property.
Once the eviction notice has been sent to the squatter and eviction proceedings have begun, there’s nothing else a property owner can do. A property owner cannot legally or forcibly remove the squatter at this time. Only the court can place an order to remove the squatter to have the squatter removed.
What You Can Do if You Can’t Evict a Squatter
You may find that the eviction process of a squatter trespasser in Kentucky is more difficult or time-consuming than you think. In this case, you may be better off avoiding the eviction process and choosing another method. After all, even if you have legal ownership, you have squatters because the house is unoccupied, so you may want to consider selling the property as-is. Selling as-is means that the squatters can stay in the house until the time it is sold.
How to Prevent Squatters
- Keep all windows and doors locked to make it hard for trespassers to enter your building
- Visit your property and make improvements regularly so that it looks like someone is living there
- If possible, secure the property with an alarm system
- Ask your neighbors to watch your property when you’re unable to visit
- Change the locks to the doors if you have rented the property to tenants who have just moved out
It’s important for every property owner or landlord to know Kentucky squatters rights law in case they are illegally occupying your vacant property. Knowing squatters rights in Kentucky will help you determine the right course of action you can take to reclaim your property.