Posted in Blog  
  on Sep 29, 2015

What Are Squatters Rights In Utah

What are squatter's rights in Utah? These rights generally fall under the laws that govern adverse possession. This is the legal process that allows someone to occupy property that is not being used in some way. By establishing their own use over a specific period of time, the title of the property can transfer from the owner to the squatters. Under Utah laws, only 7 years must pass for an adverse possession claim to be filed by squatters. There are certain tests that must be passed before the title of the property will pass from the current owner to the squatters, however, so here are the rights you'll want to know about.

1. Squatters Must Be In Actual Possession Of The Property.

No one can just look at a piece of property, decide that it is unused, and then stake a claim of ownership for it. There must be actual occupation or use of the property that occurs over a 7 year period. The squatters must act in the manner of a property owner and this occupation and action must be continued and uninterrupted. The timing can be cumulative, however, which means one squatter can occupy a property for 4 years and a second for 3 years to qualify for 7 uninterrupted years of adverse possession.

2. There Must Be a Cover Of Right Or Claim.

There are only two ways for an adverse possession claim to succeed in this area: there must be an error in the legal description of the property when it was obtained or there must be evidence of actual and continuous use of the land over the statutory period of time.

3. Squatters Must Be Using The Property With Hostile Intent.

Under Utah's adverse possession laws, hostility exists when someone is possessing or using the property of someone else without regard to the interest of the property owner. This means the actual possession doesn't have to be hostile, but is without the actual permission of the property owner. It is not possible to make an adverse possession claim if the squatters are engaged in activities on the property with the permission of the property owner. Permission cannot be given after an adverse possession claim has been filed. It must occur during the 7 year period of actual possession that must expire before the claim can be filed in the first place.

4. Use Of The Property Must Be Exclusive To The Squatters.

If a property owner comes to take action on their land, then this may reset the clock on an adverse possession claim. The use of the property must be exclusive to the squatters for an adverse possession claim to be considered valid.

5. Squatters Cannot Make An Adverse Possession Claim For Public Lands.

Any public lands that are owned by the government are automatically disqualified from an adverse possession claim. Squatters may be able to use public lands to their own personal gain, but the actual title of that property cannot switch hands no matter how long the land has been occupied.

6. The Use Of The Property Must Be Sufficient.

Squatters cannot use a property once per year over 7 consecutive years and be able to claim that they have committed sufficient acts to qualify for an adverse possession claim. Squatters must act as if they were the property owner to satisfy this qualification of the adverse possession process. If the engaged activities do not amount to sufficient use, the claim of adverse possession may be not be approved. This includes spending a minimum of $5 per acre on irrigation improvements.

7. Water Rights Do Not Transfer In Utah Through Adverse Possession.

Unless squatters can claim that their 7 year period of adverse possession began in 1939, only the property rights will transfer on a successful claim. Water rights are not allowed to be acquired through this process. Although no claims for mineral, oil, or other rights have been filed for by squatters in Utah as of yet, the precedent set by Otter Creek Reservoir Co. v. New Escalante Irrigation Co. would generally prevent these additional transfers from occurring.

8. A Claim Of Adverse Possession Doesn't Mean The Title Will Transfer.

The 7 year period of occupation only gives squatters a claim to ownership of the property. Clearing the title and removing all claims must be done by agreement or through the legal process. It is possible that other legal actions, including the eviction process or the filing of trespassing charges, may also clear the title despite an ownership claim through adverse possession. Utah's adverse possession laws are intended to help make the best use of private property possible.

By understanding what the squatter's rights in Utah happen to be, each party can then protect their own best interests.


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