Kentucky Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters Rights in Kentucky?

Squatter's rights, also known as adverse possession, allow a person to potentially gain legal ownership of an abandoned property that they do not have title to after occupying it continuously for a certain period of time. 

In Kentucky, squatter's rights laws require a person to live on an unused or abandoned property openly and continuously for 15 years before they can make a legal claim of adverse possession. The person must also pay property taxes on the land for those 15 continuous years. 

By occupying the land and meeting the legal requirements for the statutory period, a squatter can potentially gain legal ownership of the property without consent from the legal property owner. However, adverse possession cases can be complex, and there are steps a legal property owner can take to remove squatters and prevent claims of adverse possession.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Kentucky

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

Continuous Occupation

The squatter must reside on the property for the entire 15-year period without any breaks. Even a short absence could disrupt the continuity and prevent a successful claim.  

Paying Property Taxes

The squatter must pay property taxes on the land for the full 15-year period and have proof of payment. The tax records serve as evidence of open and continuous use.

Making Improvements

The squatter must make actual improvements to the property beyond routine maintenance and upkeep. This may include building additions, making repairs, landscaping, etc. Improvements demonstrate intention to occupy and claim ownership.

Open and Notorious Use

The squatter must use the property openly without any attempt to hide their occupation. Their use must be obvious to a reasonable landowner. Putting up no trespassing signs, using an address, and generally acting like an owner all help meet this requirement.

To successfully claim adverse possession in Kentucky, squatter must meet all of these requirements continuously for the full 15-year statutory period. Failing to maintain continuous occupation, pay taxes, make improvements, or use the property openly can disrupt the time period and prevent a claim.

Gaining Ownership Through Adverse Possession

To gain ownership of a property through adverse possession in Kentucky, you must complete the following steps:

1. Occupy the property continuously for 15 years

This means living on the property as your primary residence for the full 15-year period. You cannot leave the property vacant for extended periods of time.

2. Make improvements to the property

This demonstrates you are using the property productively. Improvements could include fixing up a house, landscaping, installing utilities, building structures, etc. Keep receipts for any expenses.

3. Pay property taxes for 15 years

Paying taxes shows you are claiming ownership and maintaining the property. Keep records of your tax payments. 

4. Use the property openly and notoriously

Make it obvious to the public that you are occupying the land. Put up no trespassing signs, build fences, engage with neighbors, etc. 

5. Document your efforts

Keep detailed records proving your continuous occupation and use of the property. Photos, receipts, tax records, diary entries, and statements from neighbors can serve as evidence.

6. File a lawsuit to claim ownership

After 15 years, consult with a real estate attorney to file a lawsuit for adverse possession against the legal owner. Bring your documentation to prove your claim.

Your attorney will serve the lawsuit to the last known owner. You must provide evidence they have been notified. 

8. Appear in court

A judge will hear arguments from both sides and make a determination. If your documentation demonstrates 15 years of continuous occupation, you will likely be granted ownership.

Following these steps carefully and maintaining thorough records is key to successfully claiming adverse possession in Kentucky after 15 years. Consult with an attorney throughout the process to ensure you meet all requirements.

Removing Squatters in Kentucky

If you find squatters occupying your property in Kentucky, you have several options for removing them:

File a Lawsuit to Evict

The proper legal way to remove squatters is to file a lawsuit against them and receive a court order to evict them. You would need to file an ejectment lawsuit in civil court, naming the squatters as defendants. The court will set a date for a trial, during which you must prove you are the rightful owner of the property. If the court rules in your favor, the squatters will be ordered to leave. The sheriff's department can remove them if they refuse.  

Filing a lawsuit is the safest approach, as self-eviction methods can be illegal. However, a lawsuit can take time and money. You may want to consult with a real estate attorney to understand the eviction process.

Contact Law Enforcement 

Calling the local police or sheriff's department is another option if there are trespassers on your land. Make sure you have documentation that proves you own the property. Law enforcement can escort the squatters off the premises, but they may return. Multiple calls and police reports could help build a case for eviction.

Post No Trespassing Signs

Posting visible "No Trespassing" signs around the property helps establish you do not give the squatters permission to be there. If the squatters ignore the signs, law enforcement is more likely to be able to charge them with criminal trespassing. Make sure the signs meet your state and local regulations.

Preventing Squatters in Kentucky

Securing any abandoned or vacant property is crucial to preventing squatters in Kentucky. Here are some tips:

  • Secure all points of entry to the property. This includes locking doors and windows, boarding up broken entryways, and repairing fences or walls. Make sure the property is completely inaccessible.
  • Have someone regularly check on the property. If you don't live nearby, consider hiring a house-sitting service to frequently inspect the premises. They can look for signs of trespassing and remove any squatters.
  • Post "No Trespassing" signs around the property, especially near entrances. This makes it clear the property is private.
  • File a police report at the first sign of trespassing or squatting. Police can remove trespassers and charge them if applicable. Filing reports early establishes a record of unauthorized entry.
  • Install security measures like cameras, lights, and alarm systems to deter squatters. Motion-activated cameras can alert you to trespassers.
  • Make sure the property looks occupied even when vacant. Have mail and packages sent to the address. Keep the lawn maintained and lights on timers.

Taking preventative measures is the best way to avoid squatter situations in Kentucky. Don't allow your property to appear abandoned or vulnerable to unauthorized entry. Act quickly at the first sign of trespassing.

Special Cases

Some special circumstances related to adverse possession in Kentucky to be aware of include:

Holdover Tenants

A holdover tenant refers to a previous tenant who refuses to vacate the property after their lease term ends. Even if the lease has expired, a holdover tenant maintains their tenant status and cannot adversely possess the property they are renting. 

In Kentucky, a holdover tenant is considered a tenant at sufferance. This means the landlord can file for eviction to remove the holdover tenant. The landlord does not need to provide notice before beginning eviction proceedings in this case.

Disabled Landowners 

If the original landowner is elderly or disabled, there may be additional considerations regarding removing squatters from their property. The landowner may qualify for assistance from adult protective services if unable to handle the squatter situation on their own. 

Relatives or caregivers of an elderly or disabled landowner should take steps to remove squatters as soon as possible. Additional time to take legal action may be allowed if the landowner's disability prevented them from addressing the squatter situation right away. Consulting with an attorney is recommended to ensure proper procedures are followed.

Key Takeaways

  • In Kentucky, squatters must occupy a property continuously for 15 years before having a claim to ownership.
  • The occupation must be open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, and under claim of right. 
  • Squatters must pay the property taxes for those 15 continuous years.
  • Squatters must make improvements like building structures, cultivating land, etc. Minor acts like clearing brush do not count.
  • The owner can dismantle any improvements and force the squatter out at any time during the 15 years.
  • After 15 years, the squatter can file a lawsuit and claim legal ownership through adverse possession.
  • The owner can file a lawsuit to evict the squatter at any time, but needs to provide proper notice first.
  • The time period starts over if the owner confronts or evicts the squatter, or takes legal action against them during the 15 years.
  • Disabled and elderly landowners may have additional protections against adverse possession claims.
  • The law seeks to transfer unused property titles to those who will use the property productively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes adverse possession in Kentucky?

Adverse possession refers to the process of gaining legal ownership of real property by occupying it continuously for a certain period of time. In Kentucky, to claim adverse possession, also known as squatter's rights, you must occupy the property continuously for 15 years. You must also pay property taxes, make improvements, and use the property openly and notoriously.  

How can I prevent squatters from acquiring my property in Kentucky?

To prevent squatters from acquiring your property through adverse possession in Kentucky, you should:

  • Secure all entry points, lock doors/windows, erect fencing if needed
  • Have someone check on the property regularly 
  • Post no trespassing signs  
  • File a police report if you see any signs of trespassing or squatting

What happens if a squatter lives on my property for over 15 years in Kentucky?

If a squatter lives on your property continuously for over 15 years in Kentucky, they may be able to make an adverse possession claim to legally gain ownership of the property. To claim adverse possession, they must also pay property taxes, make improvements, and use the property openly.

Can I evict squatters from my property in Kentucky? What is the process?

Yes, you can evict squatters from your property in Kentucky through the court eviction process. First, serve the squatters with a written notice to vacate. If they don't leave, file a lawsuit for eviction. A court hearing will be scheduled and a judge can order the squatters to vacate the property. You may need police to remove squatters who still refuse to leave.

Do squatters have to make improvements to gain rights in Kentucky? What qualifies as an improvement?

Yes, squatters must make improvements to the property to successfully claim adverse possession in Kentucky. Qualifying improvements include building structures, making repairs, improving drainage, planting trees, installing utility systems, etc. Simply occupying the property is not enough to meet the requirements.

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