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Tips For A Successful Credit Claim In Boston – Squatters in every state (including Massachusetts) are protected by law. If they comply with adverse possession laws, a squatter can legally claim your property.
We understand how difficult this sounds for most property owners, so this article aims to teach you everything you should know about adverse possession claims, how squatters are protected, and any legal consequences that come from squatting.
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Although squatters are protected, they must meet certain requirements to obtain legal ownership of your vacant property – and meeting these is not easy and takes a significant amount of time.
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A squatter in Massachusetts can be any person who occupies a vacant/abandoned property without the owner’s consent. Any person who does not rent the property from the owner is therefore considered a “squatter”.
Squatting is quite common in all states in the United States, including Massachusetts, and it is also considered a civil issue.
Squatters in Massachusetts can make an adverse possession claim as long as they comply with all the rules we mention below. The primary rule requires that squatters have continuous possession of the property for at least 20 years.
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Keep in mind that adverse possession laws do not apply to preserves, parks, recreation areas, wildlife sanctuaries, watersheds, or non-profit land.
Squatting and trespassing are similar terms, but they are significantly different in the legal sense. While squatting is considered a civil matter, trespassing is considered a criminal offence; that means people can go to jail if they are sued for trespassing on property.
It is important to note that a squatter can be treated like a trespasser if the owner is aware that someone is squatting on their property and does not allow it.
Some people try to create false deeds to claim actual ownership of a property. However, this is illegal, and if the person is found to be presenting false papers, they can be arrested.
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Now, there are a few exceptions where a squatter can avoid the eviction fee. Let’s explain each one in detail:
Squatters are also often compared to holdover tenants. Again, while both of these terms are similar, they are not the same. A holdover tenant is someone who is at the end of their lease term and chooses to stay at the property.
Landlords, in this case, can choose to remain tenants as long as they comply with established landlord-tenant laws and continue to pay rent.
However, that process implies that the tenant is now an “at-will”. This means that the owner can now evict them at any time without notice.
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If a squatter meets the adverse possession laws in Massachusetts, they can claim actual ownership of the property. On the contrary, the owner will have the right to ask the squatter to come out.
What happens once the squatter claims equitable ownership? Essentially, they will be able to live on the property without paying anything to the property owner.
According to Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 260 § 21), the squatter must remain on the property for at least 20 years to initiate an adverse possession claim. If the squatter is able to make the claim, they can no longer be treated as a criminal offender.
Something that makes the rules in Massachusetts slightly different than in other states is the state’s land registration system. In general, if there is a dispute and/or question of title between the owner and the squatter, they can ask the Land Court to conduct an investigation.
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The “Land Court” can investigate the correct title for the property, and it can also issue an updated certificate of title. If this happens, the squatter can no longer make an adverse possession claim.
You may have heard of the term “Color of Title” when researching adverse ownership claims. Essentially, it is a document that squatters receive and gives them a reason to think they can occupy the property.
Unfortunately for squatters, a color of title is not a legally valid document. Furthermore, having a Color of Title document does not in any way affect a squatter’s adverse ownership claim. They still have to prove continuous ownership of the property for 20 years before making a claim.
All states in the United States have five requirements a squatter must meet to claim adverse possession. If they cannot prove these five requirements, their claim is likely to be rejected, or they may not even be allowed to submit it.
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Remember that “hostile” in this context does not refer to anything dangerous. It refers to the occupation of any property or land.
The following rule states that the squatter must be physically on the property and treat it as if they own it.
Some of the resources that squatters use to meet this rule include maintenance documentation, which implies that they are making a reasonable effort to beautify or maintain the property.
It should be obvious to everyone that there is a squatter in the property. In other words, the squatter cannot attempt to hide their “squatting” status in order to comply with the “open and notorious possession” rule.
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As previously mentioned, the person must have lived on the property for at least 20 years before claiming adverse possession. However, it is important to note that they must remain regularly/uninterrupted on the property for this period; they cannot leave for weeks/months as that time does not count towards the claim.
The Exclusive Ownership Rule states that squatters cannot share the land with other people, including the owner, if they want to make a claim.
Unlike other states in the country, there are no disability requirements for adverse possession cases in Massachusetts. This means that the only way to remove a squatter (in most cities in the state) is to start a civil eviction claim.
In other words, you must evict the squatter as if you were evicting a regular tenant. However, if the land or property is part of the Boston Housing Authority, there may be an exception.
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Depending on the case, the owners can choose to send a 7, 14 or 30 day notice to quit on the squatter.
Property owners can start a “summons and complaint” case. Then they will be given a hearing date when they can explain the details of the case. If the owner is granted their eviction request, they will receive a “Writ of Execution”, giving the squatter a total of 48 hours to leave.
If the squatter does not leave after receiving written notice, a local sheriff may be sent to the property to remove them. Landlords must not attempt to remove squatters themselves.
Although squatting is common in Massachusetts, there are some ways to avoid it. If you want to protect your property (and yourself) from squatters, follow these tips:
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Note that these measures may not protect you with 100% security in some cases, especially if your land is currently not occupied by anyone.
However, applying for adverse possession is not easy and takes a lot of time, so be sure that it is not easy for strangers to legally occupy your property while you are trading.
That’s all there is to know about adverse possession laws in Massachusetts. Knowing how these cases work in each state is essential for property owners who want to avoid dealing with them.
If you ever find yourself in a position where you are dealing with a squatter, make sure you are aware of all your rights and what resources are available to deal with this situation.
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No, a squatter is not legally required to pay property tax. However, when they pay property taxes, those records are shown in the court system.
It depends on the state. In Massachusetts, the squatter must have been physically present in the property and have lived there for at least 20 years if they want to make an adverse possession claim.
No, because a person cannot be a squatter and a tenant at the same time, and the circumstances for both cases are different.
David is the co-founder & CMO of , a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he’s not hanging out with his three kids, he writes articles here!
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