Owning real estate is a major investment. Whether you hold a parcel to eventually sell for profit or hope to develop or farm the land later, real estate that you own but don’t live on can pay long-term dividends.
Unfortunately, Texas law leaves some vulnerabilities for property owners who own land that they don’t live on or regularly visit. Specifically, through adverse possession or squatters’ rights, people who have no legal claim to your property could potentially start living on your land and might eventually even get the court to put the deed in their name.
How frequently will you have to inspect your property and how quickly will you have to take legal action to avoid someone claiming adverse possession of your investment real estate?
The length of time you have to act depends on the circumstances
There are multiple different deadlines by which you may need to act if someone starts squatting on your property. In a situation where they have indeed or some other legal documentation verifying their claim to possession (color of title), you may have to take legal action within three years of them living on the property or risk them successfully filing adverse possession proceedings against you.
In cases where are there is some kind of deed affirming the person’s right to the property, if they have paid property taxes on the land and have cultivated or farm the land, you may have five years to challenge their possession.
In most other cases where there is no paperwork connecting a squatter to the property that they want to claim, they must maintain open and continual possession of the property for at least 10 years. If the owner has a disability, the time frame in which they can respond to someone’s attempt at adverse possession sometimes increases to 25 years.
How do you prevent attempts at adverse possession of your land?
Annual, thorough inspections of your property can help you discover if someone tries to use your land illegally. Careful maintenance of financial records, including proof that you have paid the property taxes, is also important. If you find someone living on your land, you will need to stand up for your ownership rights.
Quickly initiating eviction proceedings for illegal occupants or securing your property against entry can help prevent adverse possession claims. Obviously, taking action sooner rather than later is smart, as you may not know about a last will or other document that could strengthen someone’s claim. Whether you need to evict a squatter or fight an adverse possession claim, you will likely need to learn more about the law to handle a serious real estate dispute.