Posted in Blog  
  on Sep 29, 2015

What Are Squatters Rights in Indiana

Under Indiana's adverse possession laws, squatters rights are governed by all common law requirements of ownership. This means obtaining title to real property must happen as visible, actual occupation of the property that is counter to the permission of the property's owner. It must also be exclusive, continuous, and there must be some claim to ownership for an adverse possession claim to be allowed. In 1927, Indiana passed a bill that required squatters to also pay all of the taxes that are assessed to the property in question during their occupation period. If the adverse possession began before 1982, then a minimum of 15 years of continuous and notorious occupation, plus paying annual property taxes, must occur before a claim to the title can be made. After 1982, the requirement for possession of the property is just 10 years. In certain easement cases, however, the requirement of holding may be up to 20 years.

How Can Squatters Occupy Property in Indiana?

Squatters are allowed to occupy property in an adverse and hostile way when the owner of that property has neglected or abandoned it in some way. If the property has not been abandoned, then it does not qualify for adverse possession. If someone lives in Indiana for a portion of the year and then moves to a second house for the other portion of the year, then Indiana statutes indicate that this property is still actively being used.

Do Property Taxes Have To Be Paid?

Although the law clearly states that squatters must pay property taxes for an adverse possession claim to be valid, the courts in the state have ruled that the purpose of the law is to give property owners another option of notice. The idea is that by seeing that the property taxes have already been paid for the year, a property owner will know that there are squatters on the property. The same idea applies to any special assessments that may be added to the property while squatters are occupying it. Because Indiana does not notify owners that their property taxes have been paid by someone else, it is up to each individual owner to check on their property taxation status. Therefore this doesn't provide the notification the law was intended to provide and doesn't serve a legally useful purpose in most circumstances. This means it could be possible for squatters to not pay property taxes every year and still be able to have a successful adverse possession claim.

What Defines Continuous Use?

Continuous use of an abandoned property means that it is being regularly maintained or improved in some way. Squatters cannot go to a property a handful of times throughout the year and consider it to be occupied. They must be using the property in a reasonable way as if they were the owner of that property. If the structure is a house, then it may need to become their primary residence. If it is a field, forest lands, or other undeveloped land, occasional use may be permitted as long as it is structured and implemented regularly.

Can Possession Be Shared Between Squatters?

Indiana law requires the occupation of an abandoned property to be exclusive and continuous. There cannot be any shared possession of the property with someone outside of the occupying household. The possession of the abandoned property must also be continuous within the household over the entire period of time, including the 2 years that a property owner has to clear a disability, for an adverse possession claim to be considered valid.

How Can an Adverse Possession Claim Be Stopped?

Just because squatters file for a property title through adverse possession doesn't mean they will automatically be given the land in question. Squatters rights only give people a claim to the title, putting the property into dispute. To avoid this situation, property owners should inspect their properties occasionally and act to remove squatters if found. An adverse possession claim is made by filing a lawsuit through the Indiana court system for the title of a property to be transferred. This gives property owners the chance to provide a defense to the claim. A property owner must only remove one of the common law elements from the equation for an adverse possession claim to be negated. If permission is given in writing to those who are living on the property to remain there as a tenant, even if unpaid, then this may allow the property to stay in the hands of the current owner.

By being aware of Indiana's laws regarding adverse possession, it becomes possible for property owners to protect their land. Squatters rights in Indiana do allow for a property claim to be made after a certain period of time. This provides the opportunity for all land in Indiana to be put to profitable use


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