Illinois Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters Rights in Illinois?

Squatters rights, also known as adverse possession, allow a person to gain ownership or rights to a property they do not own or rent by occupying it for a certain period of time. In Illinois, a squatter must live on the property continuously for 20 years before they can make a legal claim of adverse possession. 

Simply being on the property or using it occasionally does not qualify. The occupation must be actual, visible, hostile, exclusive, and continuous for the entire 20 year period. Hostile does not necessarily mean violent, but that the occupation is without permission from the legal owner.

Adverse possession is different from criminal trespassing. Trespassing is being on property without permission, but does not require long-term occupancy or maintaining the land. Squatters rights require meeting all the requirements for adverse possession over 20 years. 

In Illinois, the path to ownership through adverse possession is steep. The squatter holds responsibility to prove they occupied the land exclusively without permission for the entire 20 year period.

Illinois Adverse Possession Laws

In Illinois, adverse possession allows a person to potentially gain legal ownership of property that belongs to someone else. This is also sometimes referred to as "squatter's rights."

For a squatter to successfully claim adverse possession in Illinois, they must meet all of the following requirements:

Requirements for Claim

  • The squatter must occupy the property for a continuous period of 20 years. This means using the property as their permanent home for 20 straight years. Occasional or sporadic use does not qualify.
  • The occupation must be actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile and continuous for the full 20 year period. 
  • The squatter must pay all property taxes during those 20 years. Not paying taxes can invalidate an adverse possession claim.
  • The occupation cannot be permissive. For example, the owner granting a license or lease to use the property would not qualify.

Use of Property

To satisfy the "open and notorious" requirement, the squatter must use the property in an obvious, unambiguous way that would put a reasonable person on notice. Things like mowing the lawn, maintaining landscaping, making repairs or improvements, and acting like an owner generally are considered open and notorious use.

Exclusive Possession 

The squatter must exercise exclusive possession and control, meaning they exclude the legal owner from accessing or using the property as if they were the owner. Allowing the true owner access defeats this claim.

Continuous Occupation 

Adverse possession requires 20 full years of continuous, uninterrupted occupation and use of the property. Any significant gaps or lapses would restart the clock and ruin the claim. Things like vacations, hospital visits or other short-term absences generally do not defeat continuous possession.

Color of Title

Color of title refers to an invalid legal document that appears to give the squatter rights to the property but is defective in some way. Having color of title can shorten the required occupation period from 20 years down to 7 years in Illinois. But the occupation must still be open, notorious, actual, hostile, exclusive and continuous for the full 7 years.

Color of Title

Under Illinois adverse possession laws, color of title refers to an invalid or faulty property deed that appears to give the squatter legal rights to the property. While the deed has some defect, error, or lack of legal right, the squatter relies on it to claim ownership rights after occupying the property continuously for the statutory period.  

Color of title is not strictly required to make an adverse possession claim in Illinois, but it can bolster a claim and help meet requirements. This is because the deed provides written documentation and good faith evidence of property rights, even if the deed itself is not legally valid.

Some examples of defective deeds that may serve as color of title are:

  • An expired lease agreement
  • A deed from a person not legally authorized to sell the property 
  • A deed with errors in property boundary descriptions
  • Forged or fraudulent documents
  • Deeds from long-ago relatives of the squatter without proper chain of title

The key is that while the deed has flaws, the squatter believes in good faith it gives them ownership rights. As long as they openly occupy the property as an owner would, pay taxes, and meet other adverse possession conditions, color of title helps establish a claim.

Importantly, color of title does not have to be formally recorded or technically valid. It just has to appear to grant property rights to the squatter attempting to take ownership through continuous possession.

Key Elements for an Adverse Possession Claim

To successfully claim adverse possession in Illinois, the trespasser must demonstrate that their occupancy was open, notorious, hostile, exclusive, and continuous for the statutory period of 20 years. 

Open and Notorious Use

The adverse possessor must show that their use of the property was obvious to anyone, including the legal owner. This means occupying the land in a way that is visible and apparent, not hiding or concealing their presence. For example, living in a house, maintaining the yard, making repairs or improvements, paying property taxes, etc. would all contribute to open and notorious use.

Hostile Occupancy  

The trespasser must occupy the land without permission from the legal owner. Their use of the property cannot be with the owner's consent. The occupier must act like the true owner, even if their use violates the rights of the legal owner. Their occupancy must be hostile or adverse to the actual property owner's rights.

Exclusive Use and Possession

The adverse possessor must exercise exclusive use and possession of the land. They must hold the property as if it were their own, keeping others from using it. Exclusive possession means sole physical control and occupation as if they were the owner. Occasional trespassing or temporary stays on the land are not enough.

Continuous Possession for 20 Years

The trespasser must reside on or use the property in an open, notorious, hostile, and exclusive manner continuously for the entire 20-year statutory period. This time period cannot be interrupted. Even brief gaps in their possession or occupation of the land will break continuity and restart the clock. The full 20 years of continuous adverse possession is strictly required.

Squatters Rights After 20 Years

In Illinois, a squatter can potentially gain legal ownership of a property after occupying it for a continuous period of 20 years or more. This is known as adverse possession. 

To successfully claim adverse possession, the squatter must occupy the property openly and without the owner's permission for the full 20 year period. They must maintain the property as if they were the true owners. This includes paying property taxes, making improvements, and establishing that they occupy the land.

If these conditions are met for 20 years or more, the squatter may be able to file a lawsuit and legally claim ownership through adverse possession. Restrictions apply on their ability to sell or transfer the adversely possessed property during the 20 year waiting period. 

Once 20 years have passed, the squatter often gains broad property rights comparable to any other legal owner. At this point they can potentially sell or transfer the property like any other real estate.

There are some exceptions where a squatter cannot claim adverse possession, even after 20 years of occupying a property. For example, if the owner is under legal disability due to mental disability or minor status, the waiting period does not start until the disability is removed. Government-owned properties also cannot be adversely claimed in most cases.

Evicting Squatters in Illinois

If you find squatters occupying your property in Illinois, you will need to go through the proper legal process to evict them. Here are the key steps:

File an Eviction Lawsuit

The first step is to file an eviction lawsuit against the squatters in county court. This formally starts the legal eviction process. You will need to provide documentation proving your ownership of the property.   

Serve Proper Notice

Once the lawsuit is filed, you must legally serve the squatters with notice that you are evicting them. In Illinois, a 5-Day Notice is commonly used for squatters. This gives them 5 days to vacate before further legal action.

Sheriff Removes Squatters 

If the squatters don't leave after proper notice, the court will order the county Sheriff to physically remove them from the property. The Sheriff will come to the property and forcibly remove the squatters if necessary.

Call the Police

If the squatters refuse to leave after the Sheriff removes them, you can call the local police for assistance. At this point, the squatters would be considered trespassing. The police can arrest squatters who refuse to vacate.

The eviction process can take several weeks or months depending on the court's schedule. It's important to follow all legal procedures correctly. Self-evicting squatters through force or shutting off utilities is illegal in Illinois. By starting the formal eviction lawsuit, you set the legal wheels in motion to safely and properly remove unwanted squatters from your property.

Protecting Your Property from Squatters

As a property owner, you'll want to take measures to prevent squatters from occupying your land. Here are some tips:

Regular Inspections

Conduct regular inspections of your property, especially if it's vacant or if you're an absentee owner. Try to inspect at least every 1-2 months. Look for signs of trespassing like damaged locks, lights being on, belongings inside, etc. The sooner you detect an unauthorized occupant, the faster you can take legal action.

No Trespassing Signs 

Post no trespassing signs around the perimeter of your property. This makes it clear the land is private property and not open to the public. It also supports your case should you need to take legal action against trespassers.

Securing Entryways

Secure all windows, doors, gates, and other access points. Install new locks if necessary. Board up unused entryways. Fencing can also help keep intruders out. Don't make it easy for squatters to get in.

Liability Insurance

Carry adequate liability insurance on your property. If a squatter gets injured while occupying your land illegally, they could try to sue you. Liability insurance helps protect you from squatters attempting to file claims against you.

Absentee Owner Risks

Property owners who live out of state or leave their properties vacant for long periods face a greater risk of adverse possession claims by squatters. If a property sits vacant and appears abandoned, a squatter may move in and attempt to take legal possession after 20 years.

It's important for absentee owners to take steps to protect their vacant properties or else they could lose ownership rights. An unmonitored, neglected property is more vulnerable to trespassers who can argue no one was maintaining or using the land.  

To reduce risks, absentee owners should:

  • Hire a property management company to regularly check on the property 
  • Install a security system with cameras to monitor any activity
  • Have the lawn maintained even if vacant
  • Post no trespassing signs 
  • Visit the property periodically if possible
  • Notify police and file reports if trespassers are found

Vacant properties that look abandoned make tempting targets for squatters seeking to acquire the land through adverse possession. Absentee owners in Illinois need to be proactive about protecting their vacant properties or they could end up losing their rights after 20 years of continuous occupation by a squatter. Maintaining and monitoring vacant land is critical.

When Squatters Have Rights

Even if you believe someone is unlawfully occupying your property, there are certain rights squatters have that property owners must respect. 

  • You cannot remove or evict someone who may have a legal claim to adverse possession without going through the proper legal procedures. Even if you believe their claim is invalid, you must follow eviction laws and allow the courts to settle the matter. Taking matters into your own hands could lead to legal issues.
  • You cannot shut off utilities or make the property unlivable in an attempt to get the squatter to leave. This may be considered an illegal eviction and could allow the squatter to sue you. Utilities can only be legally disconnected after successfully completing a formal eviction proceeding and the squatters have vacated.
  • In general, you must follow all rental occupancy and eviction laws to remove a squatter, even if no formal rental agreement exists. You cannot trespass, use force, or seize possessions. Only a law enforcement officer can legally remove squatters from a property after completing a court-ordered eviction.
  • If the squatter has a credible claim and has met the requirements for adverse possession, they may have lawful rights as the legal owner of the property. Even if you want to sell the property or move back in, the squatter could have the superior claim. These situations underscore the importance of protecting your property and monitoring it regularly.
  • The bottom line is you cannot bypass legal proceedings and attempt "self-help" evictions. There are serious consequences for illegally forcing someone off a property they have staked a lawful claim to. It's essential to follow the formal adverse possession and eviction process.

Adverse Possession Cases 

  • Bell v. Fletcher(IL App, 2021): The court ruled that squatter Cherisse Bell did not establish exclusive possession for the full statutory period to claim adverse possession of a vacant lot owned by Donald Fletcher in Cook County. Fletcher won the case proving he had retained possession and paid property taxes during the 20 year period.
  • Kinsch v. Tabor(IL App, 2018): After occupying the land for 15 years, squatter Kinsch was ruled to have not met the 20 year requirement and his adverse possession claim failed. The Tabor family retained ownership of the contested acreage in their 3rd generation family farm. 
  • Pearce v. Pierce(IL App, 2011): Pearce was awarded ownership via adverse possession of a disputed strip of land between properties after 21 years of occupancy and use. Fencing, landscaping, and conducting property maintenance met the requirements for exclusive possession.


  • Cases demonstrate that 20 continuous years of possession meeting all requirements is necessary for a successful claim, anything less will fail. 
  • Paying property taxes bolsters the true owner's claim of possession and control.
  • Exclusive physical use and occupation must be proven to establish possession.

Key Takeaways

  • The 20 year timeline is strictly enforced in Illinois adverse possession cases.
  • Property owners should vigilantly monitor their land and take action if any encroachment occurs to avoid future loss.
  • Adverse possession cases boil down to evidence proving exclusive possession. Both sides should document land use thoroughly.
  • In Illinois, squatters can potentially gain legal ownership of property through adverse possession if they occupy the property openly, notoriously, exclusively, and continuously for 20 years, including paying property taxes and maintaining the property as if they were the owner.
  • Possessing color of title—meaning some form of defective or invalid deed—can reduce the required period for adverse possession from 20 years to 7 years, provided all other conditions are met.
  • Property owners must follow a legal eviction process to remove squatters, which includes filing an eviction lawsuit, serving proper notice, and possibly involving the sheriff to physically remove squatters if they do not voluntarily leave after the court order.
  • Property owners should take proactive steps to protect their property from squatters, such as conducting regular inspections, securing entryways, posting no trespassing signs, and maintaining the appearance of the property to deter unauthorized occupancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you kick out a squatter in Illinois?

Yes, you can remove a squatter in Illinois by following a legal eviction process, which includes filing an eviction lawsuit and obtaining a court order. Physical force or self-eviction methods are not legally permissible.

What is the new squatters law in Illinois?

As of my last update, there were no significant recent changes to Illinois' squatters' laws. Squatters can claim rights through adverse possession after 20 years of continuous, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession, including paying property taxes. Always consult current legal resources or a legal professional for the most up-to-date information.

Can you turn off utilities on a squatter in Illinois?

No, turning off utilities to force a squatter out is illegal in Illinois. This action could be considered a form of harassment or constructive eviction, which is against the law. Proper legal channels must be followed to remove squatters.

How do I get someone out of my house in Illinois?

To legally remove someone from your house in Illinois, serve them with a notice to vacate and then file an eviction lawsuit if they do not comply. For squatters or those without a lease, specific notices and legal procedures must be followed according to Illinois law.

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