Louisville, Kentucky Squatters Rights
For most Americans, having possession of a home is the ultimate dream. Given this, it makes sense to be wary of trespassers that can make legal claim to your property by filing for adverse possession.
WHAT IS ADVERSE POSSESSION?
Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows squatters to gain legal possession of a property if the true owner fails to offer any objection within a certain period.
To better understand the adverse possession laws and squatters’ rights in Kentucky, we here at Alltrade Property Management have outlined answers to common questions surrounding the topic.
WHO EXACTLY IS A SQUATTER?
In Kentucky, a squatter is anyone that occupies an area of land or a residential building that is unoccupied, foreclosed, or abandoned without the true owner’s permission. Still, squatting is legal and actually quite commonplace in Kentucky.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRESPASSING AND SQUATTING?
Yes, there is a difference between a trespasser and a squatter. Whereas trespassing is always criminal in nature, squatting is a civil matter. That said, squatting may qualify as trespassing if the true owner in possession of the property decides to take legal action against the squatter.
WHAT ABOUT TENANTS WHO REFUSE TO LEAVE AFTER THEIR LEASE IS OVER?
Tenants who refuse to leave after their fixed term is over are referred to as holdover tenants. In such a situation, the tenant remains bound by the same terms as before. That is, abiding by the terms of the lease agreement such as paying rent.
If the landlord accepts rent payments, then the tenant continues to live in the property at their will. This means that the landlord in possession of the unit can evict them at any time without having to notify them, as there is no lease term in place.
But if the landlord refuses to accept rent payments, then they must serve the tenant with a notice to move out. This action will label the tenant as a criminal trespasser should they continue to remain in the property that is in possession of the owner.
HOW CAN SQUATTERS MAKE A CLAIM FOR ADVERSE POSSESSION IN KENTUCKY?
In the United States, squatters have 5 distinct legal requirements that they must meet in order to make a legal adverse possession claim to a property.
1. THE ADVERSE POSSESSION MUST BE UNINTERRUPTED FOR A PERIOD OF TIME.
The trespasser or squatter must reside in the property to which they are claiming possession for a continuous period of time. In Kentucky, this period to be eligible for making an adverse possession is 15 years.
2. THE TRESPASSER MUST HAVE EXCLUSIVE ADVERSE POSSESSION OF THE LAND.
Exclusive possession means that the trespasser cannot share the property with other people, such as fellow squatters.
3. THE ADVERSE POSSESSION OF THE LAND OR BUILDING BY THE TRESPASSER MUST BE CLEAR.
Anyone, including the actual owner in possession of the unit, must be able to tell that there is someone occupying the property. The trespasser or squatter can’t be trying to hide their presence.
4. THE TRESPASSER MUST BE PHYSICALLY PRESENT ON THE PROPERTY AND TREAT IT LIKE THEIR OWN.
Things that may indicate actual adverse possession for the squatter include efforts to maintain and improve the property.
5. THE ADVERSE POSSESSION CLAIM MUST BE “HOSTILE”.
To claim adverse possession this way, you first must understand what the term “hostile” means exactly. “Hostile” here means three things: First, that the trespasser does not have to know who is in possession of the property.
Secondly, the trespasser must be aware that they have no legal right to live on the property.
And third, the trespassing must have been done in “good faith”. In other words, the trespasser must have a deed that they think gives them the right to be on the property.
WHAT DOES COLOR OF TITLE MEAN?
If you have been researching about squatter’s rights, then Color of Title is something that you have probably encountered.
So, what is it? Well, Color of Title means that land ownership isn’t ‘regular’. The owner may not have registered the property properly, or they may not have the proper legal documents.
In Kentucky, if the squatter lays claim to a property through Color of Title, then the law only requires them to have only possessed the property for a statutory period of 7 uninterrupted years. Obviously, a court will have to verify the Color of Title.
Squatters who’ve been successful in claiming a property through adverse possession claim may also claim Color of Title.
Equally, whereas some states require squatters making an adverse possession claim to pay property taxes, Kentucky doesn’t. Paying the taxes will in no way shorten the 15-year statutory period like in the case of Color of Title.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT SQUATTERS IN KY?
Prevention is better than cure – this adage couldn’t be truer when it comes to keeping squatters at bay.
- Make sure you buy in an area with high rental demand, so your property doesn’t remain vacant for extended periods of time.
- Check to see if your insurance covers damage from unknown trespassers or people, not just renters.
- Keep up with your property’s maintenance. For example, have the lawns regularly mowed to give it a lived-in look. You can also have a home maintenance inspection every once in a while.
- Consider property guardianship. For a small fee, you can have a ‘guardian’ reside in the property to help keep it both safe and secure.
- Have a word with the neighbors and ask them to keep an eye on the property while you aren’t there.
- Ensure all entry points are well-secured. You may even want to consider buying security screens and doors or even installing an alarm system.
- Always have your locks rekeyed every time a tenant moves out.
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF A SQUATTER IN KENTUCKY?
If you already have an existing squatter situation, the following are a couple of things you should try.
- Try keeping it civil with the squatters. This may help prevent further damage or even encourage them to move out without any further recourse.
- Notify them that they need to move out of the premises. In the written notice, make sure to indicate a timeframe upon which they must have moved on. You may also want to let them know of any consequences they can face should they fail to adhere to the notice.
- Try to be empathetic and assist them to get alternative accommodation from local housing shelters.
- Consider renting the property to them. In this case, let them know that they would need to sign a legal contract and abide by its terms.
- Hire a property management company to assist you with getting rid of squatters and placing quality tenants in your rental unit.
At Alltrade Property Management, we are well-versed in Kentucky laws and can help you deal with all your property management needs. Taking care of clients’ properties and ensuring they are occupied by responsible tenants is our #1 priority.