Louisiana Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters’ Rights in Louisiana?

Squatters’ rights, also known as adverse possession, is a legal concept that allows a person to gain ownership of a property they do not have title to. In Louisiana, the specific requirements are governed by the state's adverse possession laws. 

The basic process involves occupying an abandoned property openly and continuously without permission from the legal owner. After a set time period, the squatter can file a claim to legally gain ownership of the property.

Squatters’ rights laws were created to reduce abandoned properties in urban areas and allow people to make use of vacant buildings or land. However, the concept is controversial as some view it as an exploitation of the legal system. Property owners are often surprised to learn squatters can eventually gain legal rights to their property if the specific requirements are met.

To successfully claim adverse possession in Louisiana, squatters must live on the property openly and treat it as their own for a continuous period of 30 years. If they meet the specific adverse possession requirements for that time, they can file a claim to become the legal owners.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Louisiana 

In order for squatters to successfully claim adverse possession in Louisiana, they must meet several requirements. The adverse possession requirements are outlined in Louisiana Civil Code Articles 3486 to 3492.

The most basic requirement is continuous possession of the property for 30 years. This means the squatter must reside on the property without interruption for the entire 30 year period. They cannot leave and return, or the clock resets to zero.  

Squatters must also demonstrate open, public, peaceful possessionof the property. They must make no effort to hide their presence, and it must be commonly known that they live there. Their occupancy cannot disturb the public peace or cause issues with neighbors.

Finally, squatters in Louisiana must show visible and discernible boundsaround the area they possess. This usually means building a fence or other enclosure around the property boundaries.

The 30 year time period can be reduced to 10 years if the squatter has color of title. This means a document that appears to give them legal title to the property, even if it is ultimately invalid. However, they must still meet the other requirements of continuous, open, public, and peaceful possession for the full 10 years.

So in summary, adverse possession in Louisiana requires 30 years of uninterrupted occupancy that is open, known to the public, peaceful, and marked with visible boundaries. With color of title, the time frame is reduced to 10 years.

Claiming Abandoned Property in Louisiana

In Louisiana, abandoned properties can potentially be claimed through adverse possession after meeting the requirements for 30 years of continuous possession. However, the process has risks.

To claim an abandoned property in Louisiana through adverse possession:

  • You must occupy the property continuously for 30 uninterrupted years (or 10 years with color of title). Your possession must be open, notorious, public, peaceful, and uncontested.  
  • You must maintain the property as your own, with visible boundaries or enclosures like fencing.
  • You must pay any property taxes or liens on the property for the duration. 
  • After 30 years of continuous, uncontested possession, you can file a quiet title lawsuit to claim legal ownership.

The risks of claiming abandoned property in Louisiana include:

  • The original owner may contest your adverse possession claim, especially if you cannot prove 30 years of uninterrupted possession.
  • You take on liability for any damage, taxes and liens on the property. 
  • The original owner may return and want the property back before the statute of limitations runs out.
  • You invest time and money into a property you do not legally own.
  • The property may actually not be abandoned, just neglected.

To reduce risks, consult a real estate attorney before attempting to claim abandoned property through adverse possession in Louisiana. Understand that it can be a long and difficult process with no guarantee you will gain ownership in the end. Proceed with caution.

Preventing Squatters in Louisiana

Property owners in Louisiana can take proactive measures to deter squatters and prevent adverse possession claims. 

Post "No Trespassing" Signs

Posting prominent "No Trespassing" signs around the property can deter potential squatters. Under Louisiana law, these signs indicate the owner's intention to forbid entry onto the land. Make sure the signs are clearly visible from all access points. Check frequently to ensure the signs have not been removed or damaged.

Regularly Check the Property

Make efforts to regularly monitor vacant land or buildings. Conduct frequent inspections to check for any unauthorized occupants. The more often you check on the property, the faster you can detect and remove trespassers before they attempt to claim squatter's rights. 

If you live far away or cannot check frequently, consider hiring a property management service or neighbor to keep an eye out.

Secure Entrances

Ensure vacant buildings are properly secured by locking doors, closing windows, and boarding up or fencing access points. Make it difficult for trespassers to easily enter and occupy the space.

Maintain the Property

Keep vacant land and structures well-maintained. Squatters are more likely to target rundown properties that appear abandoned. Regular maintenance and upkeep demonstrates ownership and makes the property less vulnerable to adverse possession claims.

Other Prevention Tips

  • Rent out the property rather than leaving it vacant for extended periods
  • Sell the property "as is" to a cash buyer to avoid delays
  • Work with local law enforcement to increase patrols around vacant properties
  • Keep detailed records proving your ownership and occupancy
  • Consult an attorney about steps to protect your rights under Louisiana law

Taking proactive measures can help property owners prevent squatting situations and avoid the lengthy process of removing unwanted occupants through adverse possession laws.

Removing Squatters in Louisiana 

While you cannot forcibly remove squatters yourself in Louisiana, you do have legal options available to remove unwanted occupants from your property.

The proper process is to file an eviction lawsuit against the squatters. In Louisiana, you must provide either a 5-day notice to quit (for squatters who have been there less than a month) or a 30-day notice (for over a month). After proper notice has been given, you can file the eviction lawsuit with your local parish court. 

The court will schedule a hearing, and if the judge rules in your favor, the local sheriff's department will carry out the eviction and removal of the squatters. This legal process can take some time, but it is the only lawful way to remove squatters from your property in Louisiana once you have asked them to leave and they have refused.

Importantly, you cannot take matters into your own hands and forcibly drag squatters out or cut off utilities, as this can expose you to legal liability. The proper channel is through the courts.

Some alternatives that could potentially avoid a lengthy legal battle include offering the squatters cash for keys to vacate the property or proposing to formally rent the property to them for fair market rent. However, you are not obligated to do this, and the only surefire legal path to removal is official eviction through the courts if they refuse to leave willingly.

Consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney to understand your rights and ensure you follow proper procedures when removing unwanted squatters from your Louisiana property.

Residential vs. Commercial Squatting

In Louisiana, both residential and commercial squatters can potentially claim rights through adverse possession, depending on the specific circumstances. 

Residential Squatting

Residential squatting refers to living in an abandoned residential property without the owner's permission. This could include a single-family home, duplex, apartment building or other housing intended for permanent residence.

To claim adverse possession of a residential property in Louisiana, squatters would need to live there openly, continuously, and without interruption for the required statutory period of 30 years. The residence would need to be their permanent home and primary address. The squatters cannot come and go, but must maintain continuous occupancy.  

The property must be visibly and clearly occupied, with well-defined boundaries that are obvious to any passerby. Residential squatters cannot make efforts to conceal their presence or hide the fact that they are inhabiting the property.  

If residential squatters meet all requirements for the statutory time period, they may be able to take legal ownership of the property they occupy through adverse possession.

Commercial Squatting

Commercial squatting involves occupying an abandoned non-residential building such as a retail shop, office, warehouse, restaurant or other commercial space.

In Louisiana, the rules for commercial squatters claiming adverse possession are similar to residential squatters. They must inhabit the property openly, continuously, and without interruption for 30 years. 

The commercial space would need to show visible signs of occupancy, with defined external boundaries. The squatters cannot conceal their presence or make efforts to hide the fact that they occupy the space.

Provided commercial squatters meet all requirements, they may potentially take legal ownership through adverse possession in Louisiana after 30 years. However, it may be more difficult to prove continuous habitation of a commercial rather than residential space.

Louisiana Adverse Possession Laws

In Louisiana, adverse possession laws allow a trespasser or squatter to gain legal ownership of a property after 30 years of continuous possession. The relevant statutes governing adverse possession in Louisiana are found in the Louisiana Civil Code, Articles 3486 to 3492.

To successfully claim adverse possession in Louisiana, the squatter must meet several requirements:

Continuous Possession

The squatter must physically occupy the property for 30 consecutive years without interruption. The 30-year clock starts over if the squatter leaves the property for any period of time.  

Uninterrupted Possession

The squatter's occupation of the property must be uninterrupted for the full 30 years. They cannot leave and return, or vacate the property temporarily.

Peaceable Possession

The squatter must occupy the property peacefully, without disturbing the peace. They cannot create a public nuisance or cause trouble in the neighborhood.

Public Possession

The squatter must occupy the property publicly, making no effort to hide their presence. It must be common knowledge in the community that the squatter lives on the property.  

Visible Boundaries

The squatter must establish visible boundaries or enclosures around the occupied area, such as fencing, buildings, walls, etc. This gives notice that they are claiming possession.

If the squatter meets all of these requirements continuously for 30 years, they can file a lawsuit to claim legal ownership of the property through adverse possession. 

With color of title, the statutory period in Louisiana is reduced to 10 years of continuous possession instead of 30. Color of title refers to a document that appears to give the squatter title to the property, even though it does not convey actual title. This could include an invalid or expired deed.

To claim adverse possession in 10 years with color of title, the squatter still must meet all the other requirements: continuous, uninterrupted, peaceable, public, and visible possession. The color of title document simply reduces the statutory period from 30 years down to 10 years.

Statute of Limitations in Louisiana

In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for an adverse possession claim is 30 years of continuous possession. This means a squatter must occupy the property for 30 uninterrupted years before having a claim to legal ownership. 

If the squatter has color of title to the property, the statute of limitations is reduced to 10 years of continuous possession. Color of title refers to a document that appears to give the squatter the title to the property, even though it does not convey actual title. This could be a deed with faulty legal description, for example.

It's important to note that the clock resets to zero if the squatter's possession is interrupted at any point before meeting the statute of limitations. For example, if the owner asks the squatter to leave after 25 years, the squatter would have to restart the 30-year occupancy requirement. 

In summary, the statute of limitations for adverse possession in Louisiana is 30 years, reduced to 10 years with color of title. But the squatter cannot be interrupted during that time, or the clock resets.

Key Takeaways

  • In Louisiana, squatters must continuously occupy a property for 30 years to claim adverse possession. This period reduces to 10 years if the squatter has color of title, a document that appears to give them legal title to the property, even if it's ultimately invalid.
  • Squatters must occupy the property in a way that is open, public, and peaceful, making no effort to hide their presence. This occupancy must be commonly known and not disturb public peace or cause issues with neighbors.
  • For a successful adverse possession claim in Louisiana, squatters must establish visible and discernible boundaries around the property, typically through fencing or other clear demarcations.
  • Squatting under the claim of adverse possession must meet specific legal requirements, distinguishing it from mere trespassing, which involves being on a property without permission and does not lead to ownership rights.
  • Claiming an abandoned property through adverse possession in Louisiana carries risks, such as potential disputes with the original owner, liability for damages, taxes, and liens, and significant investment without guarantee of ownership.
  • Louisiana property owners can deter squatters and prevent adverse possession claims by posting "No Trespassing" signs, securing the property, performing regular inspections, and maintaining the property's appearance.
  • Property owners cannot forcibly remove squatters themselves but must go through the legal eviction process, which involves serving a formal eviction notice and possibly filing a lawsuit to have squatters removed by law enforcement.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How long do you have to squat in Louisiana to claim adverse possession?

In Louisiana, squatters must occupy a property continuously for 30 years to claim ownership of the land through adverse possession. This 30 year time period must be uninterrupted the squatter cannot leave and return, or the clock resets to zero. 

What are the requirements to claim adverse possession in Louisiana?

There are several requirements squatters in Louisiana must meet to claim adverse possession:

  • Continuous, uninterrupted possession for 30 years (or 10 years with color of title)  
  • Peaceable, public, and visible occupancy with discernible bounds
  • Cannot hide their presence must occupy property openly
  • Must maintain the property as their own  

Can I claim abandoned property in Louisiana? What's the process?

Yes, you can claim abandoned property in Louisiana through adverse possession by occupying the property continuously for 30 years. You must occupy the property openly, maintain boundaries, and treat it as your own without the permission of the legal owner.

How can a property owner prevent squatters from gaining rights in Louisiana?

Property owners can take steps to prevent squatters from gaining adverse possession:

  • Regularly check on and maintain vacant properties 
  • Put up no trespassing signs and secure entrances
  • Offer to rent out property rather than leaving it vacant
  • Start eviction proceedings as soon as squatters are found

In Louisiana, a property owner's only legal recourse to remove squatters is to serve them with a formal eviction notice based on the duration of their stay, then file a lawsuit to have the sheriff forcibly remove them if they don't leave. The owner cannot take matters into their own hands and remove the squatters by force themselves.

Do squatters have to pay property taxes in Louisiana to claim adverse possession?

No, payment of property taxes is not required for squatters to claim adverse possession in Louisiana. As long as they meet the continuous occupancy requirements, they can gain ownership without paying taxes.

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