Do you know how to protect your investment property from squatters? As a property owner, it’s important that you understand squatter’s rights otherwise you could find yourself in lengthy and costly legal battles. In this piece, you’ll learn about Missouri’s laws as they pertain to squatters.
What are Squatter’s Rights?
Squatter’s rights are also known as Adverse Possession rights. The legal doctrine simply means that a squatter may be able to obtain ownership rights to a property if they meet certain requirements as outlined in Missouri’s property laws.
As a landlord, it’s therefore imperative that you familiarize yourself with this legal doctrine so as to prevent a stranger from owning your property.
How do Squatters Rights Work in Missouri?
One of the requirements under Adverse Possession laws is that a squatter must be able to possess a property for a certain amount of time. In Missouri, it takes 10 years of continuous occupation of a property if the squatter is to make an adverse possession claim.
In addition, a squatter must occupy the property in a specific manner for them to obtain full ownership rights.
1. The Squatter Must Physically Occupy the Property
They must be physically present and treat the property like the actual owner would. A squatter can document this through efforts they have made to improve the property while they stay there.
2. The Occupation Must be Obvious to Anyone
It must be obvious to anyone passing by that someone is occupying the property. Even the actual owner should be able to tell if someone else is occupying their property.
3. The Occupation of the Unit Must be Exclusive
In other words, the trespasser must not be sharing their occupation with anyone else. Sharing it with anyone else would invalidate their adverse possession claim.
4. The Occupation Must be Uninterrupted for the Entire 10 Year Period
As already mentioned, squatters in Missouri are required to reside on the property for at least 10 years. What’s more, this entire period of time must be uninterrupted. Their claim to own the property would be invalidated by leaving for any significant period of time.
Is Color of Title Required in Missouri?
‘Color of Title’ is a term you’re bound to come across when doing research on squatter’s rights. It simply means that the ownership of a property isn’t regular. The owner may be missing at least one of the required legal documents required for normal ownership.
Some states make it mandatory for an adverse possession claim. Missouri, however, isn’t one of them. While it can certainly help a case, it isn’t mandatory for squatters to have it prior to filing a claim.
Do Squatters have to Pay Property Taxes in the State of Missouri?
Similar to ‘Color of Title’, some states require squatters to pay property taxes in order to make an adverse possession claim. Some states will even reduce the required occupation time if a squatter can prove they have been paying taxes.
Again, Missouri is not one of those states. While it may help the case, paying property taxes won’t reduce the required continuous occupation time, either.
How Can You Deter Squatters from Coming to Your Missouri Rental Property?
There are steps that a landlord can take to prevent squatters from occupying their rental properties while they’re vacant:
- Install window security bars – While they may not be the most appealing, they can be effective at preventing potential intruders from entering your home. This is especially important if your apartment has easy access or is located on street level.
- Install an alarm or security system – This will warn you when something is happening inside your home when you’re away. Other systems can even alert the police if there is a break-in.
- Make the home look like there’s someone living there – Be sure to take care of the garden and turn on the lights when it gets dark. Open and close curtains or blinds regularly and don’t leave mail in the mailbox. Also, visit the property as often as you can.
- Offer to rent the property to the squatters – If you choose this option you can then wait for the lease or rental agreement to expire to have the squatter move out. The only downside to this is that it can take time to get rid of the squatter.
- Hire a property management company to help you rent to dependable tenants – With a renter, your home will no longer be empty and accessible to squatters. In addition, you are able to earn a recurring monthly income.
How Can You Get Rid of Squatters in the State of Missouri?
Missouri doesn’t have any special laws on how a property owner can get rid of a squatter. The only provision that exists is for disabled landowners. Other than that, you must follow the state’s legal eviction process.
The first step in any eviction process begins with a written eviction notice. When it comes to a squatter, you can serve them with a Demand for Rent notice. This notice can provide the squatter with a certain amount of time to pay rent but not always. Once a notice has been served you can move on to the next step, which is filing a summons and complaints in court.
Alternatively, you can issue the squatter with a 10-Day Notice to Vacate. This applies in cases where illegal activities are involved or in case the unit has been damaged. After the expiry of the 10 days, you can move to court and file for an eviction.
If the ruling is in your favor, you’ll need to request a writ of possession from the court. This will mandate the sheriff to carry out the eviction. You should in no way try to self-evict by turning off the utilities or changing the locks. Not only will the eviction fail, but it can also open you up to potential lawsuits.
The first step to protecting your property from squatters is to ensure that you fully understand the law. At Keyrenter St. Charles Property Management, we’re well versed in Missouri tenancy and property laws. We are a full-service property management company that can help you in all areas of property management. Get in touch to learn more about the services we offer!
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be used for educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified attorney or property management company for help.