Squatter’s rights are familiar to landlords, but the extent of their rights can be surprising. These rights are a type of Adverse Possession. After enough time has passed and certain requirements are met, your property may legally become the squatter’s with no exchange of payment.
It’s important to understand the rights of squatters to avoid this nightmare scenario from taking you by surprise.
What Are Squatter’s Rights in Michigan?
In order to gain rights, a squatter must possess your property for a certain period of time. In Michigan, a squatter must occupy your property for 15 years.
Living in your property for 15 years isn’t the only condition, however. They must occupy your property in a specific way for them to have rights as a squatter:
1. The Squatter Must Actually Possess the Property
Under this requirement, the person must be able to show that they’ve been treating the property as if they were the actual owner. For instance, if it’s farmland, they must be farming it. And if it’s a home, they must show they’re actually living in it.
2. The Squatter Must Occupy It Exclusively
The squatter must be the only person living on the property. They must exclude trespassers from the property or oppose any claims to the property by any other person.
3. The Occupation Must Be Hostile
In a legal sense, this doesn’t involve any violence or confrontation. It simply requires that the possession be hostile to that of the true owner and incompatible with their wants.
The squatter must in no way be holding the property under a right they have been granted by the owner.
4. The Possession of the Property Must Be Obvious to Anyone
In other words, the possession must not be in secret. Everyone should be able to tell there is someone living on the property.
5. The Possession Must Be Continuous
As already mentioned, Michigan requires that squatters live on a property for a period of 15 years before making an adverse possession claim. Also, this entire period must be uninterrupted. A squatter may lose their right to occupy the property if they abandon the property at any point during their stay.
That being said, the 15 years of continuous occupation may be reduced if the squatter has been paying taxes. In Michigan, if a squatter pays property taxes for long enough, they may be able to receive a title from the county tax assessor. With the title, the squatter will only need 10 years of continuous occupation to lay legal claim on it.
How to Prevent Squatters from Entering Your Property
The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent squatters. Here’s what to do:
1. Visit the Property Regularly
This is the first step to protecting your Michigan property from unwanted visitors. The more frequently you visit, the more likely it’ll be for you to spot someone and remove them from your property.
2. Boost the Security of Your Property
This is a no brainer. The more secured property is, the more difficult it’ll be for an intruder to access it.
Consider doing the following: one, install window locks. This will ensure the entire perimeter of your home is protected. Two, install steel fittings to both windows and doors. This alone can prevent all unwanted entry to your home. And three, install an anti-intruder device. This can help provide you with real-time footage of everything that’s happening on your property.
3. Ensure the Roof Has No Points of Access
A squatter may be able to gain entry to your home through an existing entry or a previously vandalized point of entry. So, check the roof for access points. Secure skylights and other vulnerable areas your roof may have.
4. Ask a Neighbor to Be on the Lookout While You Are Away
If you aren’t able to visit the property often, you can ask a neighbor to lend some help. Alternatively, at the very least, have someone you can call when your alarm is triggered.
5. Turn Off Your Utilities
This will make it particularly difficult for a squatter to reconnect. Without water or electricity, a squatter may find the home uninhabitable for them.
6. Hire a Property Management Company
This is a great way to keep your property safe, as well as earn some passive income on the side. A good company will help you in all aspects, from finding a good tenant to maintaining the unit to inspecting it regularly.
How to Remove Squatters
To avoid rights being gained by a squatter, they must be removed as soon as possible. In Michigan, there a few special provisions in the law for squatters. While most other states require a full legal eviction to remove squatters, this isn’t the case in Michigan.
According to the new law ((HB 5069/PA 223), you can remove a squatter using “self-help” means. This means that you can do any of the following things to get rid of squatters:
- Change their locks
- Remove their personal belongings from the property
- Turn off their utilities
That said, it’s still unlawful to physically remove a squatter from a property. That’s because doing so can constitute an assault.
In almost all other states, “self-help” evictions are illegal. They can result in a lawsuit, which can drag the eviction process for much longer.
Michigan also has laws that elevate the criminal consequences of trespassing, including more dire punishments for individuals found to have committed this offense repeatedly. This alone serves as a deterrent for squatters.
With all these measures, landlords are able to get rid of squatters much quicker than before. But, please note that this law doesn’t apply to tenants at will or holdover tenants, even if there is no lease to break.
Squatters are the last thing any landlord wants to deal with. At Nelson Property Management, we’re well-versed with Michigan laws. If you hire us, our #1 priority will be to care for your property and ensure it’s occupied by a responsible and reliable tenant. Contact us today to learn more about our services!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t intended to be used as a replacement for legal advice from a licensed attorney. Laws change, and they might not be updated at the time of your reading. Get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company like us directly if you need further help.