Arizona Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

Introduction to Squatters' Rights in Arizona

Squatters' rights, also known as “adverse possession,” allow a person to gain ownership of an abandoned or vacant property if they take possession of it for a certain period of time. The rationale behind squatter's rights laws are to encourage the productive use of property over willful abandonment.

In Arizona, a squatter can gain legal ownership of an unoccupied property if they maintain continuous possession of it for 10 years without the owner's permission. The squatter doesn't legally own the property during those 10 years, only gaining legal rights after the required time period has passed. 

To make a valid claim for squatter's rights in Arizona, the squatter must meet all the requirements for adverse possession. They have to occupy the property openly and exclusively without the owner's consent for the entire statutory period. The owner cannot challenge the squatter's presence during that time.

Squatter's rights claims are relatively rare, but property owners in Arizona should still take steps to prevent adverse possession of their land. Prompt action is required to remove squatters and protect ownership rights.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Arizona 

In order for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim on a property in Arizona, they must meet several specific legal requirements. The primary requirements are:

1. Continuous occupation

The squatter must physically occupy and live on the property for the entire statutory period without interruption. In Arizona, the statutory time period is 10 years for vacant land and 5 years for other property.  

2. Hostile possession

The occupation must be hostile to the rights of the true owner. The squatter must possess the property without permission and against the rights of the legal owner.

3. Open and notorious possession

It must be obvious to anyone that the squatter is occupying and using the property as the true owner would. They cannot try to hide their occupation.

4. Exclusive use and occupation

The squatter must possess and use the property exclusively, not sharing occupation with the owner or anyone else. The owner has relinquished their legal right to the property.

The squatter must meet all of these requirements concurrently for the entire statutory period in order to make an adverse possession claim in Arizona. The occupation cannot be intermittent or shared with others. The squatter must act continuously as the exclusive owner of the property for 5-10 straight years.

Time Period for Adverse Possession in Arizona

In Arizona, a squatter must occupy a property continuously and without interruption for 10 years before they can make an adverse possession claim. The time period is 10 years for residential properties and 5 years for vacant, unimproved land. 

The 10 year time period applies specifically to inhabited residential properties, houses, apartments, condos and the land under those buildings. The squatter must live on the property for the full 10 years without the owner removing them or disputing the occupation.

For vacant, unimproved land with no structures, the time period is shortened to 5 continuous years of open, obvious and hostile occupation. The squatter must make productive use of vacant land by farming, mining, logging or other economic activity. 

The continuous occupation time period is crucial and any gaps or lapses will disrupt the claim, especially if the owner evicts the squatter and they return later. The time period also starts fresh if the property ownership changes hands.

Arizona does not make exceptions for shortened time periods in any specific circumstances. No matter what, the squatter must meet the 10 year requirement for inhabited homes or 5 years for vacant land. Periodic, sporadic occupation does not qualify for adverse possession in the state.

Making Improvements to the Property

Making improvements to a vacant or abandoned property is one of the most effective ways for squatters to establish proof of possession and strengthen an adverse possession claim in Arizona. While simply occupying a property may meet the legal requirements over time, courts often look more favorably on squatters who have invested time, money, and effort into maintaining and improving the property during their continuous possession.

Some improvements squatters commonly make include:

  • Repairing or replacing broken windows, doors, fencing, siding, roofing, plumbing, electrical systems, etc. Records of supplies purchased for repairs can serve as evidence.
  • Installing new features like fencing, sheds, barns, landscaping, gardens, trees, patio areas, etc. 
  • Maintaining the lawn and gardens, keeping the property free of debris/trash, and overall caring for the land and buildings.
  • Painting or power washing buildings and structures.
  • Paving or graveling a driveway.
  • Building new structures like garages, guest houses, animal shelters, workshop buildings, etc. Permits obtained help validate the squatter's presence.

While squatters do not need the legal owner's permission to make improvements, they do take on some risk in investing their own time and money. An owner who objects early could take legal action to remove the squatters before they fulfill the continuous possession time requirement. However, making improvements certainly helps demonstrate a squatter's intention to possess the property long-term. As long as they meet all other requirements, maintenance and upgrades can strengthen an adverse possession claim in Arizona.

Paying Taxes on the Property 

One of the key requirements for adverse possession in Arizona is that the squatter must pay property taxes during the statutory period. The payment of taxes helps demonstrate the squatter has been maintaining and claiming ownership of the property.

In Arizona, the squatter must pay all outstanding property taxes for the entire 5-year period in which they are adversely possessing the property. The squatter should keep detailed records of having paid the property taxes each year as evidence to support their adverse possession claim. 

The payment of taxes further shows the squatter has been occupying the property in an open and obvious manner. It indicates they are publicly claiming ownership of the land by paying taxes on it annually. The tax payments are also official government records that help legally establish the squatter's continuous presence on the property for the required timeframe under Arizona adverse possession laws.

By diligently paying property taxes and keeping receipts and records, the squatter can make a stronger case that they have fulfilled the tax payment requirements for adverse possession in Arizona. The tax documentation provides crucial substantiation of their open occupation of the property to eventually claim legal ownership rights.

Dealing with Absentee Owners

Many property owners in Arizona live out of state or own rental properties they rarely visit. This can create opportunities for squatters to occupy the property without the owner's knowledge. However, Arizona's adverse possession laws still apply even if the owner is absent.

The 10-year time period required for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim begins as soon as they occupy the property, regardless of whether the owner lives nearby. The squatter does not need to wait until the owner returns to start the clock.  

Absentee owners face some unique challenges in dealing with squatters:

  • They may not regularly monitor the property, allowing squatters to occupy it undetected. By the time the owner discovers the squatters, they may have already been there for years.
  • Serving notice to vacate or beginning eviction proceedings can be difficult from another state. The owner may need to hire a property manager or lawyer in Arizona to handle the process.
  • Traveling to Arizona to inspect the property, appear in court, etc. can be burdensome for out-of-state owners.

To protect themselves, absentee owners should consider:

  • Hiring a property manager to regularly check on the property.
  • Asking neighbors to report any suspicious activity.
  • Posting no trespassing signs and securing entry points.
  • Requiring renters to provide notice before accessing the property.
  • Taking photos/videos documenting the property's condition at change of occupancy.

With some preventative measures, absentee owners can protect their property rights despite the distance. But they must be vigilant and take action quickly at the first sign of squatters.

Protecting Your Property from Claims  

As a property owner in Arizona, there are steps you can take to protect your property and deter squatters from trying to claim adverse possession.

Deter Squatters

  • Conduct regular inspections of your property, especially if you own multiple vacant parcels or live out of state. Squatters are less likely to move in if they know the owner is actively monitoring the property.
  • Post no trespassing signs with your contact information. This makes it clear the property is not abandoned.
  • Install fencing, gates, and other security measures to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Keep the property maintained by clearing brush, mowing lawns, etc. An unkempt property is more attractive to squatters.

Monitor Vacant Property 

  • If you own vacant land or abandoned structures, do regular drive-bys to check for signs of trespassing and occupation. Look for vehicles, belongings, debris, smoke from fires, debris, makeshift structures, and other indicators. 
  • Hire a property management company to regularly inspect the property if you live out of the area. Request written reports with time and date stamped photos documenting the property's condition after each visit. 
  • Ask neighbors to keep an eye out and notify you if they see suspicious activity. Offer to compensate them for their time.  
  • At the first sign of an unauthorized occupation, take steps to remove the squatters legally through a trespass notice or eviction proceedings. Time is of the essence.
  • Consult an Arizona real estate attorney to understand all your options and next steps. Proper legal procedures must be followed.
  • Document everything thoroughly. Keep records of all encounters and observations as evidence. Photos, videos, and eyewitness accounts will strengthen your case.
  • Taking proactive measures will help protect your property rights and prevent adverse possession claims. However, if squatters do occupy your property, act swiftly to remove them through the law before they can meet the requirements for adverse possession.

Evicting Squatters from Your Property 

If you find squatters on your Arizona property, you will need to take legal action to evict them. Here are the main steps:

The first step is to provide written notice demanding that the squatters leave the property. In Arizona, a 5-day notice to quit is typically used. 

This notice should:

  • Identify the property address and squatters by name (if known)
  • Demand that the squatters vacate the property within 5 days
  • State that legal action will be taken if they do not leave 

The notice must be served properly, which usually involves posting it on the property and mailing a copy via certified mail.

Getting Police Assistance 

If the squatters do not leave after proper notice, you can call the police and ask for assistance removing trespassers from your property. Bring documentation showing you own the property.

The police may try to mediate the situation, but often cannot immediately force the squatters out. However, a police report creates helpful documentation if you do go to court.

Going Through Court Eviction Process

If the squatters still refuse to leave, you will need to begin a formal eviction lawsuit and get a court order for their removal. The steps involve:

  • Filing an eviction complaint with the court
  • Serving the complaint papers to the squatters 
  • Attending the court hearing
  • Getting a judgment from the judge ordering their removal
  • Working with law enforcement to enforce the court's eviction order

This legal process takes time, often 2-6 weeks. But following proper procedures is important or the court may not order the removal. Consulting a local landlord-tenant attorney can help ensure you handle the eviction correctly.

With the right legal notices and court procedures, Arizona property owners can successfully evict unwanted squatters from their land.

Liability Concerns with Squatters

One major concern property owners have about squatters is the potential liability if the squatter damages the property, neglects necessary maintenance, gets injured on the premises, or engages in illegal activities. 

Property Damage and Neglect

Squatters often fail to properly maintain a property. Without regular upkeep, the condition of a house or building can deteriorate rapidly from leaky roofs, insect/rodent infestations, overgrown landscaping, broken windows, and more. Squatters may also intentionally deface or damage the property through graffiti, tearing down walls, or stripping out wiring and pipes to sell for scrap. The costs to repair damage and property neglect can be substantial for the owner.

Injuries On the Property 

If a squatter or guest gets injured on the property, the owner may be held responsible even though the squatter is trespassing. This includes slip-and-fall accidents, injuries from unsafe living conditions, dog bites, etc. The owner's homeowner's insurance may not cover injuries to trespassers. 

Illegal Activities

Squatters may use the property for illegal activities like selling drugs, prostitution, or as hideouts. This can open up the owner to criminal and civil liability. Police may seize the property if it is considered a nuisance. Banks may call due the mortgage if the property is used for illegal purposes.   

Property owners should take steps to inspect, document, and prevent any damage or illegal use of their property during a squatter situation. Consulting a lawyer on liability issues is highly recommended. Removing the squatters quickly can help mitigate risks.


Getting unlawfully evicted from your property by squatters in Arizona can be a nightmare scenario for homeowners and landowners. Adverse possession laws award certain rights to individuals if they reside on a property without permission for a sufficient period of time.

The key factors in adverse possession claims in Arizona include:

  • The squatter must reside on the property for 10 consecutive years without permission 
  • The occupation by the squatter must be open and obvious  
  • The owner cannot try to remove or object to the squatter's presence
  • The squatter must pay property taxes on the land 

As a property owner in Arizona, it's crucial to take steps to prevent adverse possession by routinely checking your property, posting no trespassing signs, and requiring ID from unknown individuals. Paying close attention to any activity on vacant land you own is also important. 

If you discover a squatter, take action right away by offering them cash for keys to vacate and demanding they leave immediately. Change all locks if needed and consider starting the eviction process ASAP if they refuse to leave voluntarily. Asserting your property rights is key.

With some vigilance and quick action if squatters appear, Arizona property owners can protect their real estate investments and prevent claims of adverse possession. Don't take chances with squatters gaining rights to what is lawfully your land.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you evict a squatter in Arizona?

Yes, you can evict a squatter in Arizona, but it must be done through the legal process. This typically involves serving an eviction notice and possibly filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit if the squatter does not leave voluntarily.

What is the shortest time for squatters' rights?

In Arizona, the shortest time frame for a squatter to claim adverse possession under color of title is three years. Without color of title, the period is generally 10 years.

What is adverse possession in Arizona?

Adverse possession in Arizona allows a person to claim ownership of land under certain conditions if they occupy it continuously for a specific period, openly and without permission from the original owner. The required period varies depending on the circumstances, but it's typically 10 years, or three years with color of title and payment of property taxes.

How long can you squat in Arizona?

The duration a squatter must occupy land to potentially claim adverse possession in Arizona is generally 10 years. However, with color of title and if property taxes have been paid by the squatter, the period can be as short as three years.

Can you kick someone out of your house if they are not on the lease in Arizona?

In Arizona, if someone is living in your house without being on the lease and refuses to leave, you may need to treat them as a tenant under Arizona's landlord-tenant laws. This typically involves providing a formal eviction notice, such as a 5-day notice for non-payment of rent or a 10-day notice for a lease violation, followed by court proceedings if necessary.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools