how to evict squatters in california

Squatters Rights California (& How to Evict Squatters in CA)

The problem of squatters invoking their rights in the property landscape is a real headache for owners. 

It gets worse as they leverage adverse possession laws to claim ownership, causing a lot of stress and financial headaches. Booting them out is a maze of legal red tape and complex steps.

But knowing the ins and outs of squatters’ rights in California in 2024 and the proper steps on how to evict squatters in California is your best shot at swiftly reclaiming what’s yours, legally and hassle-free.

Why Do Squatters Have Rights?

So, why do squatters’ rights exist? Squatters’ rights stem from property laws, addressing prolonged stays in unused properties. These rules prevent property neglect, balancing owners’ rights with those occupying spaces without permission. The rights regulate extended stays in abandoned properties, fostering a middle ground between owners and unauthorized occupants. 

What Are Squatters’ Rights in California?

Squatters’ rights in California pertain to legal entitlements for those occupying a property without the owner’s consent. Governed by California Civil Code section 1007, these rights stem from adverse possession laws. Meeting specific conditions, such as a five-year occupancy, tax payments, and legal requirements, allows individuals to claim ownership.

Squatting Laws in California

California property law states that squatting encompass regulations that govern the occupancy of properties without the owner’s permission. 

California’s legal framework addresses the complexities surrounding squatting, emphasizing the rights of property owners while delineating the legal parameters for those occupying properties without explicit authorization — especially the rights and responsibilities of property owners, tenants, and individuals occupying a property without lawful consent:

California 30-Day Squatters’ Rights

A California squatter can acquire legal rights to a property by continuously, openly, and notoriously occupying it. However, certain exceptions exist, notably for specific public lands where a shorter adverse possession period is recognized. 

This provision applies to specific public lands and necessitates that a squatter openly occupies and significantly improves the land for 30 consecutive days without any interruptions to potentially gain rights to that parcel. This exception allows for quicker acquisition of property rights under specific circumstances compared to the standard five-year duration.

For private lands, the general rule in California is that squatters may gain legal ownership rights by openly and continuously living on the property for a period of five years.

If someone lives on another person’s private land openly, without hiding, and without the owner’s permission for five years, they might claim legal ownership. 

However, note that there are no shortened timeframes or special provisions like those for public lands. The standard period for gaining ownership rights on private property through adverse possession remains five years of continuous, open, and uninterrupted occupancy.

Squatters’ Rights California Statutory Period

The statutory period defines the required duration for individuals to openly and continuously occupy a property without the owner’s permission, potentially culminating in legal ownership through adverse possession.

California Civil Code section 1007 delineates this period, typically spanning five years. To establish adverse possession rights, squatters must meet specific criteria during this time, including:

  • Uninterrupted and continuous occupancy
  • Regular payment of property taxes
  • Strict adherence to the legal requirements outlined by the state laws governing adverse possession

Squatter vs Trespasser in California Distinctions

A squatter occupies a property without the owner’s permission for an extended period, aiming to claim legal ownership through adverse possession laws. Conversely, a trespasser enters or remains on someone else’s property without authorization, lacking the intention to establish ownership rights. The critical difference lies in the squatter’s or trespasser’s intent.

How to Evict Squatters in California

The process of removing individuals unlawfully occupying a property involves a series of legal steps and protocols.

Knowing how to evict a squatter in California is critical to regain lawful possession of the property while navigating the intricacies of state laws.

1. Serve a Notice to Quit

In California, a 3-Day Notice to Quit marks the initial stage in the eviction process.

The property owner or landlord typically serves this official notice to a tenant or squatter who violates lease terms or unlawfully occupies the property. 

The notice explicitly demands that the recipient vacate the premises within a concise three-day period, failing which legal action may ensue.

Crucially, the notice’s content and delivery must comply with stringent legal requirements stipulated in California’s landlord-tenant laws. 

2. File an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

Should the squatters disregard the notice, proceed by filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit in court. This lawsuit initiates formal eviction proceedings, meticulously detailing the grounds for eviction and requesting a court order to regain rightful possession of the property. 

3. Court Hearing

Once the unlawful detainer lawsuit has been filed, the next step is to attend the scheduled court hearing.

Here, both parties present their arguments, and if the court rules in your favor, it issues a judgment for possession. This judgment legally permits the lawful removal of the squatters from the property. 

4. Obtain a Writ of Restitution

After the successful conclusion of an unlawful detainer lawsuit, the court may issue a “Writ of Restitution“. This court-issued document grants legal authority to law enforcement officers, empowering them to remove individuals unlawfully occupying the property. 

Upon obtaining a judgment for possession in an eviction case, the property owner can request the writ. Once obtained, law enforcement officials execute the writ, physically evicting the occupants and restoring possession of the property to the rightful owner. 

The Writ of Restitution serves as the final legal step in the eviction process, ensuring the lawful restoration of possession to the property owner after obtaining a court judgment.

5. Repossess the Property

Once the squatters are lawfully removed, take immediate steps to repossess and secure the property.

Ensure the premises are safe and habitable, possibly by changing locks or securing entry points to prevent unauthorized re-entry. This step is crucial to safeguard the property against potential further occupation.

How to Get Rid of Squatters in California Without Removing Them via the Eviction Processes

Knowing how to get rid of a squatter in California without resorting to a formal eviction notice can be crucial.

While the legal eviction methods are the most common approach on how to remove squatters from a property, there are alternative strategies:

Sell the Property

Selling a house to a cash buyer can effectively resolve the challenge of dealing with squatters. Property owners might want to explore selling the property when confronted with squatter-related issues. 

But, can you sell a house with squatters? Yes, even selling rental property in California is possible with squatters occupying it.

Here’s how we can help:

  1. Contact us at 951-331-3844 or fill out the provided form to request a fair cash offer for your property. No matter the situation of your home, we can help, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
  2. Upon receiving your request, we promptly respond to discuss your property in greater detail. We’ll schedule a convenient time for a one-time inspection, allowing us to thoroughly assess your property and provide you with the highest possible cash offer. 
  3. Our in-house inspector evaluates your property during this inspection and quotes a fair cash offer. If you find the offer agreeable, you can accept, sign, and consider your home sold! 
  4. Once you’ve accepted the offer, you get to choose your preferred closing date. Leave the details to us, and we’ll handle the process smoothly. Payments are available via check or wire transfer, ensuring you a hassle-free transaction.

Additional reading: Is selling your house for cash a good idea

Rent to the Squatters

Renting the property to squatters offers a unique way to handle their presence without immediately opting for eviction.

Property owners can turn squatters into legal tenants by setting up a formal rental agreement, creating a possible solution.

This approach allows both parties to formalize their arrangement, easing conflicts and possibly benefiting everyone involved. It encourages squatters to follow rental terms, protecting property owners’ rights and sidestepping complex eviction processes.

Cash for Access

Cash for access offers an alternative way to handle squatters without going through formal eviction. It involves offering money to squatters in exchange for them willingly leaving the property. Property owners can negotiate a deal, allowing squatters to move out without legal action under California law.

This compensation aims to convince squatters to leave independently, skipping the hassle of eviction procedures. Though it comes with added costs, it could speed up the process for property owners to regain control and prevent more damage or legal issues.

But it’s important to be careful. Document any agreements properly to avoid future disagreements. And remember, the success of this approach relies on whether the squatters agree to leave in exchange for compensation.

Additional reading: How long do tenants have to move out after a house is sold in California

How Long Does It Take To Evict a Squatter in California?

The eviction timeline for squatters in California varies. Usually spanning 30-45 days, it might extend to weeks or months due to legal processes, court calendars, and squatter cooperation. Factors like contestation during proceedings influence the duration, making the eviction process fluctuate beyond the initial estimated time frame.

You’ll need to keep this timeframe in mind if you’re looking to sell your property any time soon, especially if you’re looking for a quick sale or if you’re well-networked with potential investors.

If your love for the property has reduced due to squatters, shipping it off to an investors could be a good option — check out our investor to buy my house guide for more guidance.

How to Prevent Squatters in California in the First Place

Regular property inspections, prompt repairs, securing entry points, utilizing surveillance systems, maintaining clear property ownership records, and prominently displaying “No Trespassing” signs can deter potential squatting incidents. Additionally, promptly addressing any property vacancies or unused spaces can prevent opportunities for squatters from occupying unattended areas.

As you’d might expect, selling your home without any history of squatters is likely going to be more attractive to a buyer.

Although savvy investors will be able to look beyond the presence of squatters (as long as there’s no perpetual property damage), it’s a headache that’s worth avoiding in the first place.

Additional reading: Should I sell my house to an investor

How to Claim Squatters’ Rights in California

To establish squatters’ rights in California, individuals must engage in hostile, actual, continuous, and exclusive possession of a property openly and notoriously without the owner’s permission for about five years.

Let’s break down these elements in more detail…

Hostile Possession

Hostile possession doesn’t imply aggression but rather occupies the property without the owner’s permission. This occupation is in opposition to the owner’s rights, treating the property as one’s own even if the owner disagrees.

It indicates an intention to possess the land without lawful authority, not necessarily involving hostility towards the owner.

Actual Possession

To claim squatters’ rights, actual possession denotes physically residing or using the property openly and visibly, showcasing the squatter’s control and occupation. This involves actions like:

  • Living on the premises
  • Making improvements
  • Farming
  • Any demonstrable use that signifies the squatter’s physical control over the land

Continuous Possession

Establishing squatters’ rights requires continuous possession, meaning the squatter’s occupation remains uninterrupted and consistent over the specified statutory period, typically around five years in California. This continuous occupation serves as evidence of the squatter’s claim.

Exclusive Possession

Exclusive possession indicates that the squatter’s control and use of the property are exclusive, not shared with others, including the actual property owner. It means having sole control and use of the property, demonstrating ownership-like rights over the land.

Open & Notorious

Open & notorious occupation implies that the squatter’s possession of the property is easily observable or known to the public, not conducted in secret. It involves openly and visibly occupying the property without hiding or concealing the occupancy.

Squatters Pay Property Taxes

In certain instances, an adverse possession claim might involve voluntarily paying property taxes, which could potentially strengthen their claim. However, payment of property taxes alone might not suffice to establish adverse possession rights.

It’s a contributing factor among several conditions required to prove adverse possession in California, demonstrating a claimant’s intention to assume ownership responsibilities.

Our Conclusion on California Squatters’ Rights

Knowing the ins and outs of squatters’ rights in California is really important. These laws basically balance the rights of property owners and people occupying spaces without permission. They aim to prevent abandoned property neglect while also giving some rights to those who’ve been there a while without consent.

Evicting squatters is a whole process involving notices, legal processes, and court orders and usually takes about a month or a bit longer. Stopping squatters before they settle involves keeping an eye on the property, fixing things up, and keeping clear ownership records.

If you want to know how to sell my house fast in California, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 951-331-3844. We’re here to discuss a fair cash offer for your property.

Additional reading: How fast can you close on a house with cash

FAQs

What Is a Squatter in California?

A squatter in California is someone who occupies a property without the owner’s permission or someone who lacks a lease or legal entitlement to reside there. Such individuals may take up residence without authorization, often leading to contentious legal disputes over property ownership and occupancy rights.

Why Can’t You Kick Out Squatters?

Evicting squatters becomes complex due to legal safeguards. The process involves strict adherence to legal protocols. It usually includes serving formal notices and securing court orders, which significantly lengthens the eviction proceedings. Compliance with these stringent procedures prolongs the overall duration of the eviction process.

Why Do Squatters Have More Rights Than Homeowners?

Squatters’ rights hinge on the duration of occupation. Adverse possession laws bestow rights contingent upon continuous, open, and conspicuous occupation over time, aiming to harmonize property ownership rights while addressing issues of property abandonment or neglect. These laws strive to strike a balance between property ownership and occupation duration.

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