Georgia Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters’ Rights in Georgia?

In Georgia, squatting refers to living on or occupying someone else's property without permission. Georgia has adverse possession laws that allow a squatter to potentially gain legal ownership of a property after a certain period of time.

The doctrine of adverse possession essentially says that if someone openly, continuously, and exclusively occupies and possesses someone else's real property for 20 years in Georgia, and the original owner takes no legal action to remove them during that time, the squatter can gain legal ownership and title to the property.

To claim adverse possession in Georgia, the squatter must meet all of the following requirements:

Continuous possession

The squatter must have lived on or occupied the property continuously for 20 full years, without any gaps. Even a short absence could disrupt the continuous possession.

Actual possessionThe squatter must have physically used or occupied the property. Occasional use is not enough. They must treat the property as if they were an actual owner.

Exclusive possession

The squatter must have had exclusive control over the property. They cannot share possession with strangers, the owner, or tenants. 

Open and notorious possession

It must have been obvious to anyone that the squatter possessed and occupied the property. They must have made no attempt to hide their occupation.

Hostile claim

The squatter's possession must have been hostile, meaning without the legal owner's permission. Permission from the owner would make their occupation invalid.

If the squatter meets all five requirements and occupies the property for 20 full years, they can file a lawsuit to claim legal title and ownership through adverse possession. The court may then award them the title.

5 Requirements for Adverse Possession in Georgia

In order for a squatter to successfully claim adverse possession in Georgia, they must meet all 5 legal requirements:

Continuous possession

The squatter must live on the property without interruption for a period of 20 years. This means physically occupying the land on a daily basis as an average owner would. Any significant lapses of time away from the property could disrupt the continuous possession requirement.

Actual possession

The squatter must maintain actual, physical occupation of the land. They cannot claim adverse possession if they merely visit the property periodically or do minor upkeep. The squatter must treat the land as if they are the true owner.  

Exclusive possession

The squatter must possess the land for their own use only. They cannot share possession with strangers, the public, or even the true owner. Granting permission to others to use the property means the squatter's possession is not exclusive.

Open and notorious possession

It must be obvious to others that the squatter possesses the land. They must make no attempt to hide their occupation from neighbors, visitors or the public.

Hostile claim

The squatter must possess the property without the permission of the legal owner. Their use of the land must be against the rights of the true owner. Passively occupying an abandoned property is not enough - the squatter must intend to claim ownership from the rightful owner.

The squatter bears the burden of proving they meet all of these requirements for the entire 20-year period to successfully claim adverse possession. Failure to meet even one of the requirements could defeat their ownership claim.

How Squatters Can Claim Adverse Possession 

If a squatter resides on a property openly, continuously, and exclusively for 20 years in Georgia, they may be able to make a legal claim for adverse possession. The squatter must have paid property taxes on the land for those 20 years.

To make an adverse possession claim and gain legal ownership of the property, the squatter must file a lawsuit known as a "quiet title action." This requires hiring a real estate attorney to represent them in court.  

The squatter's attorney will research the property's title history to identify anyone with a legal interest in the land, such as lien holders, mortgage companies, and heirs of previous owners.  

The attorney must send a legal notification to all interested parties stating their client has adversely possessed the property for 20 years and plans to file a lawsuit to claim ownership. 

This gives the interested parties a chance to object to the adverse possession claim. If no one contests it, the squatter can ask the court to issue a new deed putting the title in their name. 

If any interested party does object to the claim, there will be a court hearing where the squatter must present evidence proving they meet all the requirements for adverse possession. This includes testimony, tax records, receipts, photos, and witness statements showing 20 years of open and continuous possession of the property.

If the court is convinced the squatter adversely possessed the property, they will issue a judgment officially transferring title to the adverse possessor. The squatter now has full legal ownership of the property.

How Property Owners Can Prevent Squatting

Property owners can take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of squatters occupying their property without permission. Here are some tips:

Conduct regular inspections and maintenance on vacant properties

Frequently checking on vacant land or buildings shows that they are being monitored and makes it less likely that squatters will try to move in without the owner's knowledge. Conducting maintenance also makes a property less attractive for squatters looking for a rundown location.

Post "No Trespassing" signs on the property

Signs clearly indicating that a property is private and trespassers are not permitted can deter potential squatters from occupying the space. No Trespassing signs make it clear that any occupants will be considered unauthorized.

Ask neighbors to report any unauthorized activity

Neighbors can act as an extra set of eyes watching out for anyone attempting to illegally occupy a vacant property. Ask neighbors to notify you if they see anyone moving in or any other suspicious activity.

File a police report if squatters are discovered

If you find that squatters have already occupied your property, file a formal police report about the unauthorized use of your land or building. This starts a paper trail in case legal action becomes necessary to remove the squatters.

Taking proactive measures by maintaining and monitoring vacant properties, posting signage, and enlisting neighbors can help property owners prevent squatting situations before they occur. Acting quickly when squatters are found also helps limit the time they can try to establish occupancy.

Removing Squatters From Your Property 

If you find squatters occupying your vacant property in Georgia, you will need to take legal action to remove them. Here are the steps:

Issue a Notice to Vacate

The first step is to provide the squatters with a written notice to vacate the property. This gives them formal notice that they are trespassing and need to leave within a certain timeframe. 

In Georgia, the law does not specify how much notice must be given. Most landlords provide anywhere from 24 hours to 60 days for a notice to vacate. The notice should identify the property, demand that the squatters leave immediately, and state that legal action will be taken if they fail to do so.

File an Eviction Lawsuit 

If the squatters do not leave after proper notice has been given, the next step is to file a formal eviction lawsuit. This is similar to the process for removing a non-paying tenant. You will need to file the lawsuit in your county's magistrate court. 

The court will schedule a hearing where you can present your evidence that the occupants are trespassing on your property. If the judge rules in your favor, you will be granted a court order of eviction.

Obtain a Court Order for Removal 

The court order for eviction authorizes the local sheriff's department to physically remove the squatters and their belongings from your property. The sheriff will arrive on the premises and force the squatters to vacate.

If the squatters refuse to cooperate, they may be arrested for trespassing. Their possessions will also be removed from the property.

Change the Locks 

Once the property has been vacated, immediately change the locks on all doors and secure the property against re-entry. This will prevent the squatters from returning and claiming they still reside there.

Post no trespassing signs around the property as well. If the squatters return and try to enter the property, you can contact the police and have them arrested for trespassing.

Evicting Squatters in Georgia

Evicting squatters in Georgia involves a legal process similar to removing a non-paying tenant. Property owners cannot immediately remove squatters by force without a court order.

The eviction process involves several steps:

Serve a Notice to Vacate

The property owner must provide a written notice giving squatters a certain number of days to vacate the property, usually 24 hours to 60 days. Georgia law does not specify a time requirement.

File an Eviction Lawsuit

If squatters do not leave after the notice period expires, the property owner can file a dispossessory affidavit with the court to start the eviction lawsuit. This gives the eviction case a court date.

Court Hearing

On the court date, the judge will hear arguments from both sides and make a ruling on the eviction. If the owner wins, the court will issue a writ of possession.

Writ of Possession

This court order directs the sheriff's office to remove the squatters from the property.


The sheriff will coordinate a time with the property owner to visit the property and forcibly remove the squatters if necessary. The owner can then change the locks to secure the property.

The entire eviction process usually takes 2-4 weeks but can vary by county and how backlogged the courts are.  

Police cannot immediately remove squatters from a property without a court order. However, police can stand by to keep the peace during an eviction and enforce the writ issued by the court. Property owners who attempt to remove squatters without going through the proper court process could face charges of illegal eviction.

By following the legal process, property owners have the ability to remove unwanted squatters from their land. But it requires time and diligence to ensure the eviction is carried out in accordance with Georgia law.

Squatters’ Rights vs. Adverse Possession

Squatters’ rights and adverse possession, while related, refer to different legal concepts in Georgia. Adverse possession is the process by which a squatter can gain legal ownership of a property after a period of time. Squatters’ rights merely refer to the rights squatters have to occupy and live on a property without being immediately removed.

The key difference is that adverse possession confers legal ownership, while squatters’ rights do not. If a squatter meets the requirements for adverse possession, after 20 years they can file a lawsuit to claim ownership of the property. Squatters’ rights simply allow a squatter to occupy the property without being instantly evicted or arrested for trespassing. 

Squatters have no ownership rights and can still be removed by the legal property owner through the eviction process. However, adverse possession grants them full property rights after 20 years of continuous, open and hostile occupation.

So in summary:

  • Adverse possession: Allows squatter to gain legal ownership after meeting requirements
  • Squatters’ rights: Allow squatter to occupy property without being immediately removed 

Adverse possession confers property ownership, squatters’ rights provide occupation rights only.

Georgia Laws Compared to Other States

Georgia's adverse possession laws require 20 years of continuous possession before a squatter can make an ownership claim. This is on the longer end compared to other states.

For example, Florida and Arkansas have the shortest adverse possession times at just 7 years. Other states range from 5 to 20 years:

  • Alaska 10 years 
  • California 5 years
  • Illinois 20 years
  • New York 10 years
  • Texas - 10 years

So Georgia's 20 year requirement gives property owners a longer window to reclaim their property compared to many other states. 

Georgia also has strong protections for property owners when it comes to removing squatters. Police can assist in enforcing eviction orders, and squatters have no right to receive advance notice before eviction.

Overall, Georgia's laws favor property owners more than squatters. The 20 year continuous possession requirement makes adverse possession claims difficult. And property owners have the power to quickly evict squatters through the court system if needed.

Key Takeaways

  • In Georgia, for a squatter to gain legal ownership of a property through adverse possession, they must occupy the property continuously, exclusively, openly, notoriously, and hostilely for a period of 20 years.
  • Property owners in Georgia have a legal avenue to reclaim their property from squatters by issuing a notice to vacate and pursuing formal eviction proceedings if necessary.
  • Squatters must meet stringent requirements over a 20-year period, including paying property taxes and demonstrating actual, continuous, exclusive, and open use of the property to claim ownership.
  • To prevent squatters from claiming adverse possession, property owners should conduct regular inspections, post no trespassing signs, secure the property, and take prompt legal action if squatting is discovered.
  • If squatters do not vacate after receiving a notice, property owners must file an eviction lawsuit. The process includes serving a notice to vacate, filing a lawsuit, and obtaining a court order for eviction.
  • Georgia's requirement for a 20-year continuous occupation is relatively long compared to other states, providing property owners with a broader timeframe to address adverse possession claims.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can police remove squatters in Georgia?

Police involvement in removing squatters in Georgia typically depends on the situation. If the squatters are committing crimes or if their presence is a result of breaking and entering, police can remove them. However, if the situation is viewed as a civil dispute, property owners may need to obtain a court order through the eviction process to legally remove squatters.

What is the adverse possession law in Georgia?

In Georgia, adverse possession laws allow a person to claim legal ownership of property if they possess it openly, continuously, exclusively, and hostilely for a period of 20 years. The squatter must also pay property taxes on the land to solidify their claim.

How do I evict a squatter in GA?

To evict a squatter in Georgia, the property owner must first serve a legal notice to the squatter, demanding they vacate the property. If the squatter does not comply, the owner can file an eviction lawsuit in court. The court process will determine the legality of the squatter's presence and can issue an order for eviction, which can then be enforced by the sheriff's department.

How long can you squat in a house in Georgia?

A squatter can potentially gain legal rights to a property in Georgia through adverse possession after continuously and openly living on the property for 20 years. This period must include paying property taxes and maintaining exclusive and hostile possession without the owner's permission.

What is the difference between a trespasser and a squatter in Georgia?

A trespasser enters property without permission, often briefly and without claiming ownership, while a squatter occupies property without permission with the intention of staying and possibly claiming ownership under adverse possession laws.

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