What are squatters rights in Iowa?
In general terms, this state follows what is known as the “good faith” rules when it comes to adverse possession.
This means someone who knows that a property is not their own will not generally prevail because their actions are not in good faith.
Even if someone maintains a property for more than 30 years, the court can deny their claim because of this element.
In cases where someone may not realize that the property they are maintaining is actually owned by someone else, then there are certain additional elements that must be met for an Iowa court to consider changing the title of the property in question or to redraw property lines.
1. The Actions Of Squatters Must Be Hostile In Nature.
This hostility doesn’t refer to violence.
Simply occupying land or structures that are not someone’s personal property will often qualify as hostile.
With the good faith element in place, the squatters must believe this property is their own and their occupation must be against the wishes of the actual property owner.
The intent must be to take the land and use it in some way to the personal benefit of the squatter because the squatter believes the land is their own.
2. There Must Be a Minimum 5 Years Of Open And Notorious Possession.
There cannot be any secrecy to the adverse possession process thanks to the good faith element in Iowa’s adverse possession laws.
Squatters must operate in the open, treating the property as if they were own, and representing this perspective to the rest of their community.
This possession must also be continuous and exclusive, which means multiple households cannot cover the 5 years of occupation together in order to file an adverse possession claim.
Please note: Depending on when the adverse possession claim was actually started, there may be a minimum of 10 years that are required before an adverse possession claim can be filed.
3. Iowa Has Certain Criteria That Would Allow An Adverse Possession Claim In 12 Months.
Since 1980, Iowa has allowed for adverse possession claims to be filed within 12 months when certain conditions are met.
This must include payment of property taxes and operating under the color of title during the entire time.
Otherwise the 5 year statutes will be enforced.
4. Property Owners Have 1 Year To Challenge Due To The Effect Of a Disability.
If a property owner can prove that a disability prevented them from understanding that an adverse possession claim was being filed with the courts, then they have up to 1 year after the disability has been lifted to challenge any squatters rights that are being claimed.
5. Property Owners May Also File a Notice In Writing To Prevent Acquisition.
The entire goal of the original adverse possession laws was to make sure all lands were being used to their maximum potential by property owners.
If land was abandoned, then someone else who was willing to improve that land in some way would be granted the right to do so.
In Iowa, a property owner can file a notice in writing with a copy to the squatters that indicates their intent to keep their property and that it hasn’t been abandoned.
6. Use Isn’t The Only Qualifier For Adverse Possession.
Simply using the property of someone else isn’t good enough to qualify for an adverse possession claim.
When there is a belief that the property belongs to the squatters, the entire situation is considered.
This includes property transfers which occur through sales.
The timing on an adverse possession claim in Iowa does not stop simply because a property title switches hands.
7. Permission To Use Property Doesn’t Negate An Adverse Possession Claim Either.
Many states require that the occupation of a property by squatters be without permission for an adverse claim to qualify for a hearing. Iowa does not necessarily require this.
If a property is being used consistently by squatters, maintained by them, and the property taxes are being paid by them, then it is entirely possible for the squatters to have the outcome be awarded in their favor.
Squatters rights in Iowa can be a complicated affair.
Most of the time the court will side with the individuals who are using the land to its maximum benefit, but holding property rights on that land with the intent to use it may also be a qualified defense.
For specific questions regarding your situation, it is important to consult with an attorney who has knowledge of Iowa’s laws on this matter.