When specific conditions are met, it is possible for a trespasser to be able to come onto someone’s property, occupy it, and eventually gain an ownership title over it.
This process is called adverse possession and in South Dakota, there are some extensive time requirements that must be met for a claim to be filed.
Sometimes called “Squatter’s Rights,” South Dakota requires four specific components to be present for an adverse possession claim to be filed.
1. Hostile Possession. The trespassers must be occupying a property that is not their own without any permission from the property’s owner.
2. Open Possession. Trespassers cannot be hiding out in a property in order to claim possession of it one day.
Their possession of the property must be open and be as if the property was their own.
This includes having utilities placed in their name at the address if a structure is being applied.
3. Physical Possession. It isn’t possible for a trespasser to leave physical possessions on a property to consider it occupied.
They must physically possess the property in order to eventually file an adverse possession claim.
4. It Must be Exclusive. South Dakota requires the same trespassers to occupy the property in question continuously.
If possession changes from trespasser to trespasser, then the length of occupation requirement will start over.
If all four of these stipulations are met in South Dakota and enough time elapses, then it may be possible to file an adverse possession claim.
How Long Must Trespassers Be In Possession?
South Dakota requires a minimum of 10 years of open and hostile possession of a property that is not currently occupied by someone else.
For example: a family of four leaves for a 3 week vacation, leaving their personal property behind.
Breaking into a home like this may be a criminal matter because it is not considered an abandonment.
A property must be abandoned for trespassers to begin legally squatting.
The 10 year requirement is allowed in circumstances where a document or deed that suggests the squatters are the legitimate owners of the property.
This means that the squatters must be paying the property taxes and improving the property as if they were the owners of it.
If this is not happening, then South Dakota requires a 20 year minimum time of possession that meets the four stipulations listed above.
South Dakota Allows For Partial Property Possession
Being able to occupy an entire structure for at least a decade without permission can be difficult, especially since the possession must be open.
Most adverse possession claims are dismissed simply because the owner of the property discovers the trespassers and begins to take action against them.
The moment that action is taken, all four of the necessary components of a claim are not available and so no claim can be filed.
In comparison, a partial property possession is easier to file an adverse possession claim on.
Let’s say that a neighbor is using the driveway next door to park their vehicle.
This is open and known about, but no action is taken to stop the activity.
After 20 years of doing this, it would become possible for the person parking their car in the driveway to file for an adverse possession claim on that portion of the property.
A neighbor using a walkway in-between houses every day could file for adverse possession, as could a relative who lives in a home where the owner has passed away without deeding it to them in a will.
What Can Owners Do About Adverse Possession?
The first action to be taken against squatters is to remove the hostile nature of the property possession.
The documentation of a rental request or permission to live on the property can potentially stop an adverse possession claim.
Owners who have abandoned properties should also consider checking on those properties from time to time.
Many property owners who go through the foreclosure process may not realize that their home is still in their possession because the lender never filed a claim for the property.
Squatters that move in and live there long enough could file an adverse possession claim in South Dakota and potentially be awarded the property.
Being proactive is the best course of action.
Squatter’s rights exist to help make sure all properties are used in a beneficial manner.
By knowing what the laws are and how they may affect you, then you can take whatever actions are appropriate for your situation.