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Squatter Laws in Texas

Squatter Laws in Texas: A Detailed Overview

Squatters’ rights, often referred to as adverse possession laws, can be complex and vary significantly by state. In Texas, these laws outline the conditions under which a squatter might gain legal ownership of a property. Understanding these laws is crucial for property owners dealing with unauthorized occupants. Here’s an in-depth look at squatter laws in Texas.

1. Definition of a Squatter

A squatter is an individual who occupies a property without the permission of the owner. This can include people who break into a vacant property or those who stay beyond the agreed-upon lease period without renewing the lease.

2. Adverse Possession in Texas

Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a squatter to claim ownership of a property under specific conditions. In Texas, the requirements for adverse possession are:

  • Actual Possession: The squatter must physically occupy the property. This can include living in or making improvements to the property.
  • Open and Notorious: The occupation must be obvious to anyone, including the property owner. The squatter cannot hide their occupancy.
  • Exclusive Possession: The squatter must possess the property exclusively, not sharing it with the owner or the public.
  • Hostile Claim: The squatter’s possession must be without the permission of the owner. This doesn’t necessarily mean hostility in the common sense, but rather that the occupation is against the rights of the owner.
  • Continuous Possession: The squatter must occupy the property continuously for a statutory period without interruption.

3. Statutory Periods for Adverse Possession in Texas

Texas law stipulates different periods for adverse possession based on various factors:

  • 3-Year Period: This is the shortest period and requires the squatter to have a legal document, such as a deed, that is defective.
  • 5-Year Period: The squatter must cultivate, use, or enjoy the property, pay property taxes, and have a claim under a registered deed.
  • 10-Year Period: This period applies when the squatter has no documentation. They must occupy the property continuously for 10 years, openly and notoriously.
  • 25-Year Period: This applies to certain cases involving minor heirs or legally disabled owners. The squatter must meet the other adverse possession requirements.

4. Legal Process for Property Owners

If a property owner discovers squatters on their property, they should take immediate steps to address the situation legally:

  • Call Law Enforcement: If the squatters have recently moved in or are trespassing, contacting the police can sometimes resolve the issue quickly.
  • Serve a Notice to Vacate: If the squatters refuse to leave, the owner must serve them with a formal notice to vacate. This notice gives the squatters a specified period to leave the property voluntarily.
  • File an Eviction Lawsuit: If the squatters do not leave after the notice period, the owner must file an eviction lawsuit (forcible detainer) in the appropriate court. The court will schedule a hearing to review the case.
  • Court Hearing and Judgment: During the hearing, the owner must provide evidence of ownership and the squatter’s unauthorized occupation. If the court rules in favor of the owner, an eviction order will be issued.
  • Enforcement of Eviction: With a court order, law enforcement can remove the squatters from the property.

5. Preventive Measures for Property Owners

Property owners can take several steps to prevent squatters from occupying their properties:

  • Regular Inspections: Regularly inspect vacant properties to ensure they remain unoccupied.
  • Secure the Property: Use locks, security systems, and fencing to deter squatters.
  • Post No Trespassing Signs: Clearly visible signs can serve as a deterrent and provide legal backing in case of trespassing.
  • Prompt Action: Address any signs of squatting immediately to prevent a long-term occupation.


Understanding squatter laws in Texas is essential for property owners to protect their investments and address unauthorized occupancy effectively. By knowing the requirements for adverse possession and the legal steps to remove squatters, owners can safeguard their properties and prevent potential legal complications. If you’re dealing with squatters, consulting with a real estate attorney can provide valuable guidance tailored to your specific situation.

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