Minnesota Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

Introduction to Squatters’ Rights in Minnesota

Squatters’ rights and adverse possession are sometimes misunderstood concepts in Minnesota property law. Essentially, the principle of adverse possession allows a trespasser (or squatter) to potentially gain legal ownership of a property that they have occupied continuously for a statutory period of time.  

In Minnesota, this time period is 15 years of continuous possession. If the squatter meets all the legal requirements for adverse possession during that time, they may be able to legally claim ownership of the property when the original owner no longer wants them removed or after 15 years has passed.

The requirements for adverse possession in Minnesota include:

  • Actual possession - The squatter must physically occupy and live on the property.
  • Open & notorious possession - It must be obvious to anyone that the squatter lives there.
  • Exclusive possession - The squatter must be the only one possessing and occupying the property.
  • Hostile possession - Possession must be against the rights of the true owner.
  • Continuous possession - The squatter must occupy the property continuously for the full statutory period.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide to adverse possession and squatters’ rights laws in Minnesota. It will cover the requirements in detail, how long it takes, differences with trespassing, steps for property owners, protecting property, and more.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Minnesota

In order for a squatter to make a valid claim for adverse possession in Minnesota, they must meet several strict legal requirements over the statutory period of 15 years. The possession must be actual, open/notorious, exclusive, hostile, and continuous.

Actual Possession

The squatter must be physically occupying and using the property as an owner would. Merely walking across or occasionally using the land does not qualify as actual possession. The squatter must treat the land as their own home or property through actions like maintaining, improving and using the land. 

Open and Notorious Possession

It must be obvious to anyone that the squatter is occupying and possessing the land. They cannot try to hide their occupancy or be secretive about it. The squatter must make their possession known to the public and community.

Exclusive Possession

The squatter's possession cannot be shared with anyone else, including the legal owner. The squatter must possess and use the property as only they have the right to it, keeping out all others.

Hostile Possession

The squatter's possession must be hostile, meaning against the rights of the true owner. There must be an intent to claim ownership rather than permission from the legal owner. The squatter is possessing the property "hostile" to the actual owner's rights.

Continuous Possession

The squatter must reside on the property without any significant gaps of time absent from the property. To meet the 15 years, the squatter must possess the property continuously without lapses. Even short absences can disrupt the continuity of possession.

Payment of Property Taxes

The squatter must pay property taxes on the land for the full 15 year statutory period. If the squatter fails to pay taxes even for one year, it disrupts the continuous possession.

How Long for Adverse Possession in Minnesota

In order for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim in Minnesota, they must occupy the property continuously for 15 years. The 15-year time period is strictly enforced and required by Minnesota adverse possession laws. 

Simply trespassing on a property or occupying it for short periods does not qualify for adverse possession. The squatter must reside on the land for the full 15 consecutive years without interruption. They must demonstrate continuous possession by using the property as if it were their own.

During the 15 years, the squatter must meet all other requirements of adverse possession as well. Their occupation must be actual, open/notorious, exclusive, and hostile. If the squatter vacates the property for any period of time or fails to consistently act as an owner, it will break the continuous possession requirement.

The continuous 15-year time period will restart if the squatter abandons the property at any point. Even a short absence could disrupt the continuity and prevent an adverse possession claim. The squatter cannot come and go as they please.

Paying property taxes on the land for 15 years consecutively also helps demonstrate continuous possession in Minnesota. While not an absolute requirement, it does strengthen an adverse possession claim significantly.

Ultimately, the key is that the squatter must maintain uninterrupted possession for the full 15 years mandated by law in order to make an adverse possession claim in Minnesota. No exceptions are made to this stringent time period requirement.

Using Adverse Possession to Gain Ownership

Adverse possession provides a legal way for a squatter to gain ownership of a property in Minnesota. However, the process is lengthy, with specific requirements that must be met. Here is an overview of using adverse possession to gain property ownership in Minnesota:

To successfully claim adverse possession, the squatter must occupy the property for a continuous 15 years. Their possession must be actual, open and notorious, exclusive, hostile, and continuous over the entire 15-year period.  

  • Actual possession means the squatter is physically present on the property and treating it as their own. They cannot be an occasional visitor.
  • Open and notorious possession means the squatter is occupying the property without hiding their presence. They need to make it known publicly that they are residing there.
  • Exclusive possession means the squatter is the sole occupier and uses the property as their own. Sharing possession with the owner or others can ruin an adverse possession claim.
  • Hostile possession doesn't necessarily mean "hostile" in the common sense. It simply means occupying the property without the owner's permission, rather than having a landlord-tenant or other formal agreement.
  • Continuous possession means occupying the property without any gaps. The squatter cannot abandon the property and return later to pick up where they left off. It must be continuous for the entire 15 years.

In addition to meeting all these requirements for 15 years, the squatter must pay the property taxes during this time. If they default on the taxes, it can invalidate their adverse possession claim.

After 15 years of meeting the adverse possession requirements, the squatter can file a lawsuit to quiet title. This transfers legal ownership of the property to them through a court order. At this point, adverse possession is complete and the squatter becomes the legal owner of the property.

The continuous 15-year timeline is the biggest obstacle to gaining property ownership through adverse possession in Minnesota. Very few squatters are able to meet the stringent requirements for that entire duration. But adverse possession exists to allow ownership for those who do fulfill the long-term requirements.

Differences Between Squatters’ Rights and Trespassing

Squatters’ rights refer to the legal principle of adverse possession, through which a person can potentially gain legal ownership of a property they have occupied continuously for a certain period of time (15 years in Minnesota). Trespassing, on the other hand, refers to occupying or using someone else's property without permission from the owner. 

There are some key differences between adverse possession (squatters’ rights) and trespassing:

  • Adverse possession requires continuous, actual, open/notorious, exclusive, and hostile possession of a property for 15 years in Minnesota. Trespassing does not meet these strict requirements.
  • To successfully claim adverse possession, the squatter must maintain open, obvious, and apparent occupation of the property. Trespassers, on the other hand, often try to hide their unauthorized use.
  • Adverse possession also requires the squatter to pay property taxes on the land for 15 continuous years. A trespasser does not pay property taxes.
  • The possession for adverse possession must be hostile to the real property owner, meaning without permission. Trespassers also occupy without permission, but may do so sporadically versus continuously.
  • Adverse possession can lead to the squatter legally obtaining ownership of the occupied property after 15 years. Trespassing does not lead to any legal ownership rights.
  • Squatters claiming adverse possession must be physically occupying and using the property. Trespassers may only occasionally occupy or pass through.

So in summary, squatters’ rights arise from adverse possession whereas trespassing does not display the open, continuous, hostile possession required to establish legal rights to a property. While both involve occupation without consent, only adverse possession (squatters’ rights) can potentially lead to ownership.

Steps for Property Owners if Faced with Squatters

If you find someone squatting on your property in Minnesota, you will need to take action to have them evicted and removed. Here are the key steps property owners should take:

1. Serve Eviction Notices

The first step is to serve the squatters with a written eviction notice. In Minnesota, a 5-day notice to quit is typically used for squatters. This provides them with 5 days' notice to leave the premises before further legal action is taken. The notice should name the squatter(s) and demand they vacate immediately.  

2. File an Eviction Lawsuit

If the squatters do not leave after the notice period expires, the next step is to file a lawsuit to have them evicted. This formally starts the eviction process through the court system. You can file the lawsuit yourself or hire an attorney. The court will schedule a hearing.

3. Obtain Court Order

At the eviction hearing, you will need to present your evidence and documentation showing ownership of the property. If the judge rules in your favor, they will issue an eviction order requiring the squatters to vacate by a certain date. The sheriff can assist in removing them if they do not comply with the order.

4. Call the Police

If the squatters refuse to leave after receiving proper notice, you can call the local police department and explain the situation. Show the officers the eviction notice and court paperwork. The police can arrest squatters for criminal trespassing if they refuse to vacate. This provides an immediate remedy.

Taking legal action through eviction notices, lawsuits, police assistance and court orders provides the proper lawful procedures for removing unwanted squatters from privately owned properties in Minnesota. Property owners should not attempt forceful self-help evictions.

Protecting Property from Adverse Possession Claims in Minnesota

Property owners in Minnesota can take steps to prevent squatters from making valid adverse possession claims and gaining rights to their land. Being diligent about monitoring your property and learned about claims promptly are key.

You should:

  • Make regular inspections of the property to check for trespassing or unauthorized use. If you find someone, take action right away.
  • If the property is vacant land or a rental, drive by periodically to look for signs of occupancy. Make sure it appears unoccupied.
  • Post no trespassing signs to make it clear the property is private.
  • Maintain the land by clearing brush, mowing the lawn, etc so it doesn't appear abandoned.
  • Pay property taxes on time and keep records. Delinquent taxes can help an adverse possession claim.
  • Talk to neighbors nearby to ask if they've seen any activity on the property.
  • If you receive a claim of adverse possession, consult a real estate attorney immediately to protect your rights. Don't ignore mail about the property.
  • Keep records of your efforts to monitor the property and evict intruders as evidence you did not abandon the land. 
  • If you live out of state, consider hiring a property manager to regularly inspect it if needed.

A bit of diligence goes a long way in preventing adverse possession of your property in Minnesota. Don't let a claim go unaddressed - take prompt legal action. With quick action, you can defeat invalid claims.

Squatters’ Rights on Private vs Public Property 

Adverse possession laws in Minnesota only apply to private property, not public property. Squatters cannot make claims on land that is owned by the local, state, or federal government through adverse possession.

This is because private property rights allow for ownership transfer through adverse possession, while public lands are held in trust for the people. The government maintains ownership and management responsibilities for public parks, roads, waterways, schools, and other publicly owned spaces.

Squatters may be able to occupy public lands undetected for years. However, this continuous possession does not entitle them to ownership rights through adverse possession. The land remains in the public trust under government ownership.

Attempting to adversely possess public property is considered trespassing. A squatter on public lands can be removed and face criminal charges for the unauthorized use of public property. Adverse possession claims will not hold up in court.

So while squatter's rights can lead to ownership of private property that has been abandoned or neglected in Minnesota, these rights do not allow taking ownership of municipal, state or federal lands from the government through continuous occupation alone. Adverse possession only applies to private property that has clearly defined ownership and transfer rights under the law.

Other Squatters’ Rights in Minnesota

Minnesota does have some protections for squatters outside of adverse possession claims. While squatting on private property is generally illegal, there are certain situations where squatters may have valid claims:

Homeless Squatters

Minnesota law prohibits evicting homeless people from squatting on public property between November 1 and April 1 when shelters are full. This is intended to prevent homeless individuals from freezing outside in the winter. Police also cannot destroy or throw away a homeless person's temporary shelter during this period.

Tenant Protections

If a squatter has been living in a property with the owner's permission but does not have a formal lease, they may still have certain tenant rights under landlord-tenant laws in Minnesota. Owners cannot forcibly remove squatters and must go through proper eviction proceedings in court.

Domestic Violence Situations

There are protections against eviction for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking who break their lease to flee a dangerous housing situation. These individuals cannot be discriminated against when seeking new housing. 

Emergency Assistance

Some cities and non-profits provide emergency shelter and assistance to homeless squatting families with children to help them find stable housing and avoid evictions.

So while squatting on private property generally does not convey legal rights in Minnesota, there are some limited protections for vulnerable groups like domestic violence victims and homeless individuals, especially in severe weather conditions. But outside of these specific circumstances, squatting can still be considered criminal trespassing.

When Squatters’ Rights Claims are Valid vs Invalid

For a squatter to successfully claim adverse possession in Minnesota, their claim must meet all legal requirements. A squatter's claim is more likely to be valid if they:

  • Occupy the property continuously for 15 full years without any extended absences. Even occasional short trips away could jeopardize claims.
  • Use the property as if they are the true owner in an open and obvious way. They should maintain the property, make improvements, pay utilities, etc. 
  • Do not have the permission of the true owner to be there. The possession must be hostile, not friendly.
  • Pay all property taxes for the full 15 year period. There should be no lapses in tax payments.
  • Occupy the entire property. Partial or sporadic occupation weakens claims.

Conversely, a squatter's claim is more likely to be invalid if they:

  • Abandon the property for periods of time throughout the 15 years. Even a few weeks absence each year could ruin continuous possession.
  • Keep their occupation secret and hidden from the true owner and public. Lack of openness and notoriety weakens claims.
  • Have permission from the owner to be there or occupy only with implicit approval. Possession must be hostile. 
  • Fail to pay property taxes annually and on time. Lapsed tax payments can invalidate claims. 
  • Only occupy or use a portion of the property. Exclusive use of the entire property is required.
  • Cannot prove their continuous 15 year occupancy adequately if challenged in court.

So in summary, for a successful claim, squatters must clearly meet all legal requirements for the full 15 year period without any gaps or deficiencies. Otherwise, their claims will likely fail if challenged.

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