Indiana Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters and Squatters Rights in Indiana?

Squatters are individuals who occupy an abandoned or vacant property without the permission of the property owner. Squatting usually occurs when people who are homeless or cannot afford housing move into unoccupied foreclosed or abandoned buildings.

In the state of Indiana, squatters can gain legal ownership of the property they are occupying if they meet the requirements for adverse possession. Adverse possession, also known as "squatters rights", allows a person to acquire title to a property they do not own by possessing it for a statutory period of time. 

In Indiana, the continuous possession time period required for adverse possession is 10 years. If squatters openly occupy a property for 10 years without permission from the legal owner, pay taxes on the property, and meet other requirements, they may be able to make an adverse possession claim with the court to legally gain ownership.

The concept of adverse possession allows squatters to gain legal rights to an abandoned or unmonitored property after a certain time period. This is intended to promote the maximum utilization of real estate by allowing people to take possession of land that is unused and neglected by the legal owner. However, adverse possession can be difficult for property owners to defend against if they fail to monitor their vacant land.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Indiana

In order for squatters to make an adverse possession claim in Indiana, they must meet all of the following requirements:

Continuous possession for 10 years

The squatters must have actual, uninterrupted possession of the property for a full 10 years. This means residing on the land and treating it as their own for the entire 10-year period. Even short absences or lapses can disrupt the continuity.

Actual possession

The squatters must physically occupy the land and make active use of it. Merely walking through or camping occasionally on the property does not qualify as actual possession. The squatters must treat the land as owners normally would, such as living there full-time or conducting daily activities there.

Open and notorious possession

The squatters' possession must be obvious to anyone who inspects the property. There can be no attempt to hide the fact that the squatters are living there. Instead, they must make the land clearly look inhabited with activities like routine yard work, repairs, or recreational use.

Exclusive possession

The squatters must assert exclusive control over the property. They cannot share possession with the owner, other squatters, or tenants. The squatters must act as sole occupants and users of the land.

Hostile possession

The squatters' occupation must be without the owner's permission. Their use and occupancy cannot be with the actual or implied consent of the legal owner. The possession must be clearly adverse and against the rights of the true property owner.

The squatters bear the burden of proving that all of these conditions have been met continuously for the full 10-year period in Indiana. If they cannot show each element was satisfied, their adverse possession claim will fail.

How Long Do Squatters Have to Occupy a Property in Indiana?

In Indiana, squatters must maintain continuous possession of a property for 10 years before they can make an adverse possession claim. This means occupying the property for 10 straight years without the legal owner's permission.  

The 10-year time period generally starts when the squatter first occupies the property. They must demonstrate actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession throughout the entire 10 years to meet the continuous possession requirement. This means living on the land, maintaining and improving it, and using it as an owner would for the full decade.

There are some exceptions to the 10-year rule:

  • If the squatter has paid property taxes on the land, they only need to occupy the property for 5 continuous years before claiming adverse possession. 
  • If the squatter has color of title to the property, meaning they have a legal document like a deed showing ownership, the time frame is shortened to 5 years of continuous possession.
  • If the legal owner is considered legally disabled, such as a child or mentally incapacitated person, the time period does not run until the disability is removed. So squatters cannot claim adverse possession until 10 years after the disability ends.
  • If the legal owner dies during the 10-year period, the time frame resets and squatters must occupy the land for 10 years continuously after the owner's death. 

So in summary, 10 years of uninterrupted occupation is the standard for a claim of adverse possession in Indiana. But the timeframe may be reduced under certain conditions.

Can Squatters Gain Ownership in Indiana?

In some cases, squatters can gain legal ownership of a property in Indiana through adverse possession. The continuous possession time frame in Indiana is 10 years. 

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

  • The squatter must have actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession of the property continuously for 10 years.  
  • The squatter must occupy the property without the legal owner's permission.
  • The squatter must maintain and improve the property as if they were the rightful owner.

If a squatter meets these requirements for the 10 year period, they may be able to make an adverse possession claim with the court. The court can then transfer the legal title to the squatter.

However, there are some exceptions and defenses that the legal property owner can use to prevent adverse possession:

  • If the owner gave the squatter permission to occupy the property, then it is not considered hostile possession and adverse possession cannot be claimed.
  • If the owner makes any effort to exercise their legal rights to the property, such as conducting inspections, making repairs, paying taxes, or making a good faith effort to evict the squatter during the 10 years, the continuous possession is considered interrupted. This resets the clock and the squatter cannot claim adverse possession.
  • Adverse possession generally cannot be claimed on government owned properties in Indiana.
  • Minors and those deemed legally incompetent cannot claim adverse possession in Indiana.

So while continuous, open, and hostile occupation for 10 years may allow squatters to claim legal ownership, there are important exceptions and defenses for property owners to prevent this from happening. With proactive measures, owners can protect their rights and defeat adverse possession claims.

Removing Squatters from Your Indiana Property

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

Provide Notice to Vacate

The first step is to provide the squatters with a written notice to vacate the property within a certain time frame, usually 10-30 days. The notice should identify the property, demand that they vacate, and state that legal action will be taken if they fail to leave. Send the notice by certified mail and post a copy on the property.

File an Eviction Lawsuit

If the squatters do not leave after proper notice, you will need to file a formal eviction lawsuit against them. This is usually done in small claims court if the property is residential. You will have to provide evidence proving ownership of the property and that they are occupying it without your permission.

Attend the Court Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing where you will present your case and the squatters can defend themselves. Have all your documentation ready to show your ownership and their unlawful occupation. If you win, the court will issue an eviction order.

Sheriff Involvement

If the squatters do not leave by the deadline in the court's eviction order, the county sheriff can be requested to forcibly remove them. The sheriff will post a notice on the property and then return on a set date to remove the squatters if they are still there.

Following this legal process carefully is the proper way to remove squatters from your property in Indiana. Using self-help evictions or force to remove them without a court order can open you up to liability.

Preventing Squatters in Indiana

To prevent squatters from occupying your vacant property in Indiana, it's important to take proactive measures. Here are some tips:

Conduct Regular Inspections

Make it a point to personally inspect your vacant property frequently, at least every few weeks. Look for signs of trespassing or unauthorized access. Document each inspection with photos and written notes.

Establish a Maintenance Schedule

Maintain your property on a regular basis. Have the lawn mowed, leaves raked, snow shoveled, and conduct any needed repairs. A well-maintained property is less appealing to squatters.

Install an Alarm or Security System

Having security measures in place will deter potential squatters. Install motion sensor lights, alarms on doors/windows, or a full security system. Make sure any security signs or equipment are prominently displayed.

Hire a Property Management CompanyConsider hiring a property management company to regularly check on and maintain your vacant property if you live far away or travel often. They can also coordinate any security or maintenance vendors.

Taking preventative measures makes it much less likely squatters will take up residence on your Indiana property. Conducting routine inspections and keeping up maintenance are key to protecting your vacant land or buildings. Implementing security upgrades sends a strong message to would-be trespassers.

Color of Title and Adverse Possession in Indiana

Color of title is a legal concept that can shorten the time period for adverse possession in Indiana. Color of title means that the squatter has some kind of document that appears to give them legal ownership of the property, such as a deed. The document does not have to be legally valid, it just has to give the appearance of being a proper claim to the property. 

With color of title, the time period required for adverse possession in Indiana is reduced from 10 years down to just 5 years of continuous possession. The squatter still has to meet all the other requirements actual possession, open and notorious use, exclusive use, and hostile possession without the owner's permission. But the shortened time frame makes it much easier for squatters to take advantage of color of title to try to claim ownership.

For example, if a squatter finds an old deed for a property that was never properly registered, they could produce that deed to claim color of title. Even if that deed has no legal validity, it would potentially give them a way to claim adverse possession after only 5 years of living there, rather than the 10 years that is normally required.

Property owners need to be aware of this provision under Indiana adverse possession laws. Checking carefully for any questionable deeds or claims against your property is an important step to defend against squatters who are trying to take advantage of color of title to shorten the required possession time. Regular inspections, property monitoring, and removing potential color of title claims are key to protecting your land.

Proving Adverse Possession in Indiana 

In order for a squatter to successfully claim adverse possession in Indiana, they must be able to prove continuous possession of the property for 10 years (or 5 years with color of title). Simply occupying a property is not enough the squatter must provide evidence that clearly demonstrates the required elements of adverse possession.

Some of the records and evidence a squatter may use to prove adverse possession include:

Receipts and invoices

Any records showing improvements, maintenance, repairs, or other expenses paid by the squatter for the property.

Utility bills

If the squatter set up utility services like electricity, gas, water in their name and paid the bills. 

Tax records

If the squatter paid any taxes on the property. Payment of taxes is not required, but can help demonstrate possession.

Witness affidavits

Notarized written statements from people who knew about and observed the squatter living on the property for the required time period.

Photographs and videos

Dated photos or videos documenting the squatter making use of or living on the property over the years.

Government records

Any records from city or county governments sent to the squatter at the property's address. Things like code violations, municipal services, or other notices.

Bank records

If the squatter used the property address for bank statements, this can further indicate possession. 

Improvement records

Receipts for any upgrades, remodels, or other improvements the squatter made to the property.

The more documentation and evidence a squatter can provide to demonstrate open, continuous use over the statutory period, the more likely they will be successful in an adverse possession claim. Witness testimony from neighbors, visitors, delivery workers, or others can also be persuasive for proving the elements of adverse possession to a court.

Interrupting Adverse Possession in Indiana

In Indiana, a property owner can interrupt a squatter's continuous possession and prevent them from claiming adverse possession. This resets the clock and the squatter must occupy the property for another 10 continuous years before having a valid claim.  

There are a few key ways a property owner can interrupt adverse possession:

Visibly posting no trespassing signs or fences

If the owner puts up signage that prohibits trespassing or erects fencing around the property, this interrupts the squatter's exclusive control. The squatter's possession is no longer considered uninterrupted.

Filing a lawsuit for trespassing

The owner can file a lawsuit against the squatter alleging trespass. Serving papers interrupts continuous possession. Even if the lawsuit is unsuccessful, the adverse possession clock gets reset.

Entering the property or confronting the squatter

If the owner enters the property or confronts the squatter in person and demands they leave, it disturbs their exclusive control. To be most effective, the owner should document the encounter.

Making repairs or improvements to the property

If the owner hires contractors to make repairs, upgrade systems, improve landscaping, or conduct maintenance, the squatter's possession is disturbed.

Any overt action by the owner that interrupts the squatter's exclusive control will restart the clock and prevent adverse possession. Owners should be sure to thoroughly document any efforts to interrupt the squatter's continuous possession in case legal action becomes necessary. With persistence, the rightful owner can defeat a squatter's adverse possession claim in Indiana.

Trespassers vs. Squatters vs. Adverse Possession in Indiana

There are important legal distinctions between trespassers, squatters, and adverse possession in Indiana:


  • A trespasser is someone who enters or occupies property without permission for a temporary period. 
  • Trespassing is a minor property offense, not a method of gaining ownership.
  • Property owners can have trespassers removed by law enforcement.


  • Squatters occupy a property without the owner's permission.
  • They may falsely claim a right to live there or intend to adversely possess.
  • Squatters have no ownership rights and can be evicted through a court order.

Adverse Possession

  • Adverse possession requires occupying a property for a statutory period (10 years in Indiana) in an open, continuous, hostile manner.
  • The adverse possessor can gain legal ownership at the end of the statutory period.  
  • The title transfers automatically by operation of law after the statutory period expires.
  • The original owner must file a lawsuit to eject the adverse possessor before the time period ends.

The key difference is that adverse possession leads to ownership if the statutory requirements are met. Trespassers and squatters do not gain any ownership interest in the property.

Key Takeaways

  • Squatters in Indiana can gain legal ownership through adverse possession by occupying a property for 10 years, paying taxes, and meeting other specific conditions.
  • Adverse possession in Indiana requires squatters to demonstrate actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession for a continuous 10-year period.
  • The standard 10-year requirement for adverse possession can be reduced to 5 years if the squatter pays property taxes or has color of title.
  • Legal owners can prevent adverse possession claims by actively managing their property, such as paying taxes, making repairs, or confronting squatters.
  • Squatters must provide substantial evidence, like utility bills or witness affidavits, to support their adverse possession claim.
  • Property owners can interrupt a squatter's continuous possession by taking actions like posting no trespassing signs or filing a lawsuit, effectively resetting the possession clock.
  • There's a clear legal distinction in Indiana between trespassers (temporary without ownership intent), squatters (occupy without permission but may intend to claim ownership), and adverse possessors (may gain ownership after meeting specific legal criteria).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you kick out a squatter in Indiana?

Yes, you can kick out a squatter in Indiana by following the legal eviction process, which includes providing a notice to vacate and potentially filing an eviction lawsuit if the squatter does not leave voluntarily.

Can you take ownership of an abandoned house in Indiana?

Yes, it is possible to take ownership of an abandoned house in Indiana through adverse possession, but you must occupy the property openly, notoriously, exclusively, and hostilely for a continuous period of 10 years, and meet other specific legal requirements.

How do I kick someone out of my house in Indiana?

To legally remove someone from your house in Indiana, you must serve them with a notice to vacate and, if they do not comply, proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit in court to obtain a court order for eviction.

Can you evict a tenant without a lease in Indiana?

Yes, in Indiana, you can evict a tenant without a lease by giving them a notice to vacate according to state law, typically providing a 30-day notice for month-to-month tenancies or immediate notice for violations of rental agreement terms or illegal activity.

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