Kansas Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

Introduction to Squatters Rights in Kansas  

Squatting refers to occupying an abandoned or vacant property without the permission of the owner. Squatters may temporarily live on the property or attempt to claim legal ownership through adverse possession.

Adverse possession, sometimes referred to as "squatters rights", is a legal principle that allows a person to acquire title to a property they do not own by continually occupying it for a certain period of time. In Kansas, squatters can make an adverse possession claim after occupying a property continuously for 15 years.  

The concept of adverse possession dates back hundreds of years to English common law. It was initially conceived as a way to make sure land was put to productive use. The thinking was that if an owner neglected their property and allowed others to occupy it without objection for many years, the owner had effectively abandoned the land. Allowing the squatters to gain legal rights prevented the land from being unused.

Over time, squatters rights laws have evolved and today all 50 states have some form of adverse possession on the books. However, the time periods and qualifying criteria differ from state to state. In Kansas, a squatter who meets the legal requirements can take ownership of property that would otherwise sit vacant and unused for years.

In order to make an adverse possession claim for a property in Kansas, a squatter must meet several requirements. The occupation and possession must be:

  • Continuous for 15 years 
  • Open and notorious  
  • Exclusive  
  • Hostile or adverse to the legal property owner

The occupation of the property can initially be illegal, such as trespassing, but the squatter must maintain open, continuous, and exclusive possession for 15 years in order to be eligible to legally claim adverse possession. 

Kansas adverse possession law requires the squatter to reside on the property for the entire 15-year period, without absence, in order to fulfill the continuous occupation requirement. They must use the property as an owner would, by living in a house, farming land, using storage structures, etc.

The possession must be open and notorious to satisfy the legal requirements. This means the squatter must occupy and use the property without attempting to hide their presence. Paying utilities and taxes in their own name, doing repairs and improvements, and otherwise acting like a property owner demonstrates open and notorious possession.

The squatter can't share possession with strangers, the legal owner, or others during the 15-year period. Exclusive possession means they alone act as owner and exclude all others from the property. This helps prove there was no permission given and their occupation has been hostile against the interests of the true owner.

Importantly, the squatter must pay all property taxes for the full 15 years they are in possession of the property. They must also make valuable improvements by building or repairing structures, maintaining the land, etc. These requirements help prove they have been acting as the true property owner.

To gain legal title to a property through adverse possession in Kansas, a squatter must file a lawsuit to quiet title after occupying the land continuously for 15 years. 

Filing a quiet title action requires submitting extensive proof to the court evidencing that the squatter has met all of the legal requirements for adverse possession. This includes:

  • Proof of actual, open, notorious, exclusive and hostile possession for the full 15-year period.
  • Evidence of paying all property taxes on the land for 15 consecutive years.
  • Documentation showing valuable improvements made to the property.

Once the squatter provides adequate proof meeting all legal requirements, the court will award them legal title and ownership rights to the property through adverse possession. The court essentially transfers title from the legal owner to the squatter.

At this point, the squatter gains full ownership rights equivalent to a standard deed transfer. The adverse possession judgment acts as the legal mechanism for acquiring valid title.

Paying Taxes to Establish Squatters Rights  

One of the legal requirements for adverse possession in Kansas is that the squatter must pay all property taxes on the land during the continuous 15-year occupancy period. Paying taxes helps the squatter establish and maintain ownership rights over time.

Kansas courts have ruled that the payment of taxes, or lack thereof, can be a deciding factor when determining if adverse possession rights are valid. The squatter must ensure the property taxes are paid in full and remain current throughout the 15-year possession. Delinquent tax bills or lapses in payment could complicate an adverse possession claim down the line.

The tax records also serve as documentation to help prove continuous possession of the property. If the squatter pays taxes on the land for the full 15-year period, it demonstrates they have occupied the property exclusively during that time. Property owners can also use tax records to challenge an adverse possession claim if the squatter was not paying taxes on the land.

Overall, keeping up with property tax payments is a critical step for squatters in Kansas seeking to take legal ownership of an abandoned property through adverse possession. The tax records help verify they have met the continuous occupancy requirement over the 15-year time frame.

Making Improvements 

One of the key requirements for gaining adverse possession rights in Kansas is making valuable improvements to the property you are occupying. Simply living on the land is not enough you must make changes that increase the livability and value of the property.

  • Some examples of valuable improvements include:
  • Repairing or replacing a roof, floors, walls, plumbing or electrical systems
  • Adding rooms, a garage, porch or other living spaces
  • Installing new appliances like a stove, refrigerator or washer/dryer
  • Building structures like a barn, shed, wellhouse or chicken coop  
  • Clearing brush, removing garbage, landscaping the yard
  • Grading driveway, adding fencing or making other access improvements
  • Planting trees, crops, gardens or making other agricultural improvements

It's important to keep detailed records proving the improvements you have made over the years. This includes receipts for materials purchased, photos showing progress, building permits obtained, or statements from contractors or helpers verifying the work. Improvements like planting trees or crops that take time to mature can be documented each year as they grow.

The more you can demonstrate increasing the livability, functionality and property value through improvements, the stronger your claim will be for adverse possession when you go to court. Minor repairs or cosmetic improvements alone are generally not enough to meet the legal threshold. Consult an attorney to ensure the improvements help solidify your claim to ownership under Kansas squatters rights laws.

Maintaining Continuous Possession  

To claim adverse possession in Kansas, squatters must maintain continuous possession of the property for the entire 15-year period required by law. This means occupying the property on a continuous, uninterrupted basis for 15 years. 

If squatters move away from the property for an extended period of time, it can disrupt the continuous possession requirement and jeopardize their adverse possession claim. Even vacations or trips can potentially interrupt continuous possession, if the squatter clearly abandons the property for a period of time.

To maintain the best claim for continuous possession, squatters should occupy the adversely possessed property on an annual basis at a minimum. The more frequently a squatter occupies the property, the stronger their claim of continuous possession will be. 

Squatters should be prepared to demonstrate through documentation and records that they maintained actual possession of the property for 15 full years. Things like utility bills, repair records, photos and videos can help establish continuous occupation over time. Witness testimony from neighbors may also support a squatter's claim of uninterrupted possession.

Absentee possession or merely monitoring the property from afar does not satisfy the continuous possession requirement under Kansas adverse possession laws. Squatters must maintain actual, physical occupation and control of the property for the entire 15-year period to claim legal ownership.

Preventing Squatters in Kansas

As a property owner in Kansas, you want to take proactive measures to prevent squatters from occupying your land or buildings. Once squatters establish occupancy, they can gain adverse possession rights within as little as 5 years. 

To keep squatters off your property, you should:

Regularly monitor and maintain your property

Conduct frequent inspections of your property. Look for signs of trespassing or unauthorized use. Maintain the land by mowing, landscaping, and making repairs. A well-cared for property is less likely to attract squatters.

Post no trespassing signs

Installing visible signage that states "No Trespassing" or "Private Property" informs people the land is not open to the public. Properly posted signage also strengthens your ability to prosecute trespassers and squatters.

Install security measures

Deter squatters by installing fencing, locks, lighting, or cameras. Fencing and locking access points prevents unauthorized entry. Security lighting and cameras allow you to monitor your property and identify trespassers. Trail cameras or game cameras are affordable DIY options.

Taking proactive measures makes it clear your property is private, monitored, and maintained. This can deter potential squatters from attempting to occupy your land or buildings in Kansas. Act quickly at the first sign of unauthorized use.

Evicting Squatters in Kansas  

If you find squatters occupying your Kansas property, you have legal options to remove them. As the property owner, you cannot forcibly remove the squatters yourself without going through the proper legal process. Here are the steps to evict squatters in Kansas:

Serve Notice to Vacate

The first step is to provide written notice demanding that the squatters vacate the premises within a certain time period. The required notice period in Kansas is 3 days. The notice should identify the property address, date, and be signed by the property owner or landlord. 

It must be delivered directly to the squatters or posted conspicuously on the property. The notice gives the squatters the chance to leave on their own before going to court.

File Eviction Lawsuit

If the squatters fail to leave after proper notice, the next step is to file a formal eviction lawsuit with the local district court. This starts the legal proceeding to remove the squatters and regain possession of your property. 

You will have to provide evidence proving ownership of the property and that the defendants are squatters with no legal right to occupy the premises. The court will schedule a hearing where you can present your case.

Obtain Court Order

If the judge rules in your favor, you will be granted an eviction order. This court order authorizes the local sheriff's department to remove the squatters and their belongings from your property. 

The sheriff will visit the property and force the squatters off the premises if they do not comply with leaving voluntarily. The eviction order gives you the legal right to change the locks and prevent the squatters from returning.

Following the proper eviction process through the courts is the only lawful way to remove squatters from your property in Kansas. Self-help evictions through force or unlawful methods could open you up to lawsuits or even criminal charges.

Squatters vs Tenants in Kansas

The main difference between a squatter and a tenant in Kansas is the legality of their occupancy. Squatters have no legal right to live on the property they occupy. Tenants, on the other hand, have legal permission from the property owner, either through a lease agreement or other arrangement.

Squatters occupy the property without the owner's consent. Their possession is considered "hostile" in legal terms, meaning it is against the owner's rights. Tenants have the owner's permission to live on the property, through a contractual relationship like a lease.

Kansas has different processes for removing squatters versus evicting tenants:

  • Squatters have no rights, so property owners can take fast action to remove them. Police may be able to arrest squatters for trespassing. Owners can change locks or take measures to make the property uninhabitable.
  • Tenants can only be removed after proper notice and court-ordered eviction. The owner must give notice to vacate, file for eviction, and get a judge's order to have the sheriff forcibly remove tenants and their belongings. 
  • It's faster and easier to remove squatters than evict tenants. But property owners should be sure to correctly identify whether they are dealing with a squatter or tenant before taking action. Trying to illegally evict a tenant could lead to lawsuits and penalties.

The main distinction is that squatters occupy the property illegally while tenants have a legal right based on their lease or rental agreement. Their rights and how they can be removed differ significantly under Kansas law.

Key Takeaways 

  • Adverse possession, colloquially known as "squatters rights", is a legal principle that allows a person to acquire title to an abandoned property if they occupy it continuously for a statutory period of time. In Kansas, this period is 15 years.
  • To successfully claim adverse possession, squatters must meet other requirements like paying taxes, making improvements, and maintaining open, continuous possession.
  • It's important for property owners to monitor their property regularly and take measures to prevent squatters from occupying it.
  • Installing security systems, posting no trespassing signs, and conducting frequent inspections can help deter squatters.
  • If squatters do occupy the land, the owner can take legal action by serving an eviction notice and getting a court order to have the squatters removed. 
  • Overall, adverse possession laws in Kansas provide a way for the continuous occupation and improvement of abandoned properties. However, property owners have legal options to prevent squatters from taking over their land or to remove them if they do. Staying vigilant and taking preventative measures is key to avoiding lengthy legal battles over adverse possession claims.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long are squatters rights in Kansas?

In Kansas, squatters can claim rights through adverse possession after continuously occupying a property for a period of 15 years. This occupation must be open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile toward the rightful owner.

How do I claim adverse possession in Kansas?

To claim adverse possession in Kansas, you must openly, notoriously, and exclusively occupy the property in a way that is hostile to the owner's interests for a continuous period of 15 years. You must then file a lawsuit in court to legally establish your claim to the property.

Does a squatter have to pay property taxes in Kansas?

While Kansas law does not explicitly require squatters to pay property taxes to establish an adverse possession claim, doing so can strengthen their claim. Paying taxes demonstrates a level of ownership and responsibility for the property that supports the squatter's adverse possession case.

Who Is considered a squatter in Kansas?

In Kansas, a squatter is considered to be any individual who occupies land or a building without the legal right or permission of the owner. This occupation must be actual, open, and visible, and the squatter must act as if they own the property without the consent of the property owner. Squatters do not have a lease or any formal agreement that grants them permission to use the property, distinguishing them from tenants or guests.

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