Mississippi Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

Definition of Squatters in Mississippi

In Mississippi, a squatter is someone who occupies an abandoned or unoccupied property without the permission of the property owner. Squatters typically move into properties that are vacant or appear abandoned, and live on the property as if they were the rightful owners. 

It's important to distinguish squatters from tenants, licensees, and trespassers:

  • Tenants have permission from the property owner to live on the property, usually through a lease agreement and the payment of rent. Squatters do not.
  • Licensees have temporary permission to use a property for a specific reason, such as house guests. Squatters occupy the property indefinitely without permission. 
  • Trespassers briefly and illegally enter a property without intending to stay. Squatters move in without permission and intend to remain on the property long-term.

So in summary, squatters in Mississippi are individuals who move into abandoned buildings or properties without the owner's consent and make themselves at home there. They do not have any legal rental agreement or permission allowing them to stay on the property.

Overview of Squatters Rights 

Adverse possession, often referred to as "squatters rights", is the act of occupying someone else's property without their permission for a statutory period - usually 10-30 years depending on the state - in order to gain legal ownership of the property. 

The requirements for claiming adverse possession in Mississippi are:

Actual Possession

The squatter must physically occupy and control all or part of the property. Simply visiting periodically is not enough.

Open & Notorious Possession

The squatter's possession and control must be obvious and known to the public, not just the legal owner. They cannot try to hide the fact that they are living on the property.

Exclusive Possession

The squatter must possess the property for themselves. They cannot share occupancy with other squatters, the owner, or tenants.

Continuous Possession

The squatter must reside on the property continuously for the entire statutory period without any significant gaps. Periodic absences may cause the "clock" for the statutory period to restart. 

Hostile Possession

The squatter must occupy the property without permission and against the rights of the legal owner. Their possession can't be in agreement with the owner.

If a squatter meets all requirements for the statutory period of 10 years in Mississippi, they can file a lawsuit to claim legal ownership of the property through adverse possession.

Mississippi's Squatters Rights Laws

Mississippi's current squatter's rights laws are based on the legal principle of adverse possession, which allows a person to potentially gain legal ownership of a property that they have occupied continuously for a certain period of time. 

In Mississippi, a squatter must live on a property for between 10 and 30 continuous years in order to make an adverse possession claim. The exact time period depends on whether the squatter claims to have paid property taxes, made improvements to the property, or claims to have some other documented right to the property.

If the squatter meets all the requirements for adverse possession, they can petition the court to get legal title for the property transferred to them. 

Mississippi's squatter's rights laws originated from old English common laws and doctrines around ownership and land rights. The time periods required have changed over the years. Originally, Mississippi followed the English statute of limitations on recovering property, which was 20 years. This was later extended to 30 years. More recently in 1989, the state reduced the time period to just 10 years if a squatter pays property taxes and makes improvements to the property during their occupation.

Claiming Adverse Possession in Mississippi 

To claim adverse possession in Mississippi, you must occupy the property continuously for the statutory period, which ranges from 10-30 years depending on the circumstances. This means using the property as if you were the owner - living in a house, farming on vacant land, etc.  

You must also pay any property taxes associated with the land during your occupation. Make sure to keep receipts or other documentation showing you paid the taxes.

It's also important to make improvements to the property as evidence you are occupying and using it. For a house, this could include repairs, renovations, landscaping, etc. For vacant land, clearing brush, planting crops, building structures like sheds or fences, etc. The more you improve the property, the stronger your claim will be.

The occupation and use of the property must be "open and notorious" meaning it's obvious to anyone who observes the property that you are occupying and controlling it. You need to demonstrate intention to claim ownership of the property through your continuous occupation and use over many years.

By meeting these requirements, you can file a lawsuit and make a legal claim seeking to quiet title and claiming ownership by adverse possession after the statutory time period has passed.

Removing Squatters in Mississippi

If you find squatters occupying your vacant property in Mississippi, you will need to take legal action to remove them. Here are the main steps property owners should take:

File an Eviction Lawsuit

  • The proper legal process for removing squatters is to file an eviction lawsuit against them. This involves submitting a complaint to your local court stating that individuals are occupying your property without permission. 
  • The court will schedule a hearing where you must provide evidence that you are the legal property owner and the defendants are occupying without consent. If the ruling is in your favor, the court will issue an eviction order requiring the squatters to vacate the premises within a certain time frame.
  • If they do not leave after the set time period, you can call the sheriff's office to forcibly remove them. It's important to follow all legal protocols when evicting squatters, as trying to remove them on your own could result in civil or criminal charges.

Change the Locks to Prevent Re-Entry 

  • After the squatters are formally evicted, make sure to promptly change all the locks on the property. This will prevent the squatters from making unauthorized re-entry if they made copies of the keys. 
  • You may also want to install security alarms, cameras, fencing or hire security guards if necessary to keep the site protected from additional trespassing. Make sure no possessions or people are left behind after changing the locks.
  • By taking swift legal action and securing the property, property owners can promptly remove illegal squatters and regain control of their vacant premises. Consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney if you need help filing the proper eviction paperwork and orders.

Preventing Squatters in Mississippi

Property owners in Mississippi can take proactive steps to deter squatters from occupying their vacant properties. 

Regularly inspect the property

Conduct routine inspections of any vacant homes, buildings or land, especially if they are in remote areas. Check for signs of trespassing, vandalism or unauthorized occupation. The more frequently the property is checked on, the faster a squatting situation can be addressed.

Post "No Trespassing" signs

Placing visible signage that declares "No Trespassing" or "Private Property" can discourage squatters from occupying the space. Signs announce that any entry is unauthorized. Proper signage may give the property owner an advantage if needing to take legal action against squatters.

Ask neighbors to report suspicious activity

Neighbors can act as an extra set of eyes watching over the property. Let neighbors know the property should be vacant and request they notify the owner if they see people entering or any unusual activity. They can help spot squatters early before they establish occupancy. Having witnesses helps property owners build a case to remove squatters.

30-Day Squatters Rights in Mississippi

In Mississippi, squatters can gain certain legal rights after occupying a property for 30 days or more. This is known as the "30-day rule" for squatters.

The 30-day rule gives squatters some basic protections against immediate forced removal. If a squatter has lived on a property for over 30 days, the owner cannot remove them without following formal eviction procedures through the court system. 

To remove a squatter who has occupied a property for over 30 days, the owner must:

  • Provide a written notice to vacate, allowing the squatter 30 days to leave voluntarily. This gives them time to find new accommodations.
  • If the squatter does not leave after the notice period, the owner can file a lawsuit for eviction with the local court. This starts the formal legal process for removal.
  • The court will schedule a hearing, where the squatter can defend their occupation. If the court rules in the owner's favor, it will issue a court-ordered eviction notice. 
  • If needed, the county sheriff can assist in removing the squatter from the premises after the eviction order.
  • The 30-day rule gives squatters more leverage to fight removal and extend their stay. However, it does not give them ownership rights or the ability to claim adverse possession. The owner still maintains legal possession of the property. The squatter remains an unwanted trespasser without any true ownership claims.

Squatters Rights on Government Property

In Mississippi, it is not possible to claim adverse possession or squatters rights on property owned by the federal, state, or local government. This includes land owned by government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service, military bases, public schools, libraries, post offices, highways, and other municipal buildings and facilities. 

The legal doctrine of "nullum tempus occurrit regi", which means "time does not run against the king", protects government property from adverse possession claims. Essentially, this means that statutory time limitations that apply to private property do not apply to public lands. The government retains perpetual ownership and cannot lose title to its property through adverse possession.

Some key reasons why adverse possession claims cannot be made on government-owned property in Mississippi include:

  • Government lands are held in trust for the public, so private individuals cannot gain ownership through occupancy alone.
  • Allowing adverse possession of public lands could result in large losses of property that taxpayers paid for.
  • The government maintains dominion over its property, even if the land appears abandoned or is not currently in public use.
  • Special legal protections shield government property from adverse possession claims.

While the law prohibits claiming adverse possession of government property, that does not mean trespassing on public lands is legal. Squatters on government property can still be charged with criminal trespassing and removed, regardless of how long they have occupied the land.

Property Owner Protections Against Squatters

While adverse possession laws may seem to favor squatters, property owners in Mississippi still have legal protections and remedies against unauthorized occupancy.

If you find squatters occupying your property in Mississippi, you have the right to file a lawsuit to evict them. Some legal remedies include:

  • Filing a lawsuit for trespass. You can sue the squatters for trespassing on your property.
  • Calling the police. If the squatters are on your property without permission, you can call the local police to immediately remove them. This is especially useful if you arrive while they are still occupying the property.
  • Eviction lawsuit. You can file a formal eviction lawsuit to force the squatters off your property through the court system. This involves serving them written notice requesting they vacate.
  • Claim damages in court. In some cases, property owners can sue for compensation if the squatters damaged the property or deprived the owner of rental income.

Preventative Measures

To deter squatters from occupying your vacant property in the first place, consider these preventative measures:

  • Install fencing, gates and no trespassing signs around the perimeter. Posting visible signage establishes your non-consent.
  • Visit the property frequently to check for signs of trespassing and remove any squatters. 
  • Hire a property caretaker or ask neighbors to monitor the property.
  • Keep the property maintained with regular landscaping and exterior upkeep. 
  • File a vacancy notice with the local police department. This gives them authority to remove unauthorized occupants.

By taking both legal action and preventative measures, property owners can protect against adverse possession claims and remove unwanted squatters from their land. Consulting with a real estate attorney can also help devise a strategy in the event of a squatter situation.

Adverse Possession Claims Process in Mississippi

To officially claim ownership of a property through adverse possession in Mississippi, you must file a lawsuit against the legal owner. Here is the basic process:

  • Consult with a real estate attorney - They can review your case and ensure you meet all legal requirements before filing the adverse possession claim. Having an attorney is highly recommended but not legally required in Mississippi.
  • File a lawsuit against the legal property owner - This is typically done in circuit court in the county where the property is located. The paperwork and filing fees vary by county.
  • Serve notice to the legal owner - The property owner must be officially notified of your lawsuit and claim. Your attorney can help arrange proper legal service.
  • The owner has a chance to respond - If the owner contests your claim, a court date will be set. You must prove you meet the statutory requirements.
  • Court hearing - Both parties present evidence to the judge to decide the claim. If you prove "open and notorious" occupation for the statutory period, you could be granted ownership.
  • Final judgment - The court will issue a final ruling either granting or denying your adverse possession claim. If approved, you would gain legal title.
  • Record the new deed - To complete the transfer of ownership, the court's judgment must be recorded with the county registrar. Your attorney can help with this process.

The entire claims process usually takes 2-3 years depending on the circumstances of the case and court calendar. With proper documentation and evidence, adverse possession can be a valid way to gain ownership in Mississippi.

Key Takeaways

  • In Mississippi, squatters are individuals who occupy abandoned or unoccupied properties without the permission of the property owner.
  • Adverse possession, or "squatters' rights," allows a person to claim legal ownership of a property after continuously occupying it for a specific statutory period, typically between 10 to 30 years, depending on the situation.
  • To claim adverse possession in Mississippi, a squatter must physically occupy the property, demonstrate open and notorious possession, use the property exclusively, and maintain continuous possession for the required statutory period, all without the legal owner's permission.
  • In Mississippi, the period for a squatter to make an adverse possession claim ranges from 10 to 30 years. The exact time depends on various factors, including whether the squatter has paid property taxes or made improvements to the property.
  • To claim ownership through adverse possession, squatters must file a lawsuit against the property's legal owner, proving they've met all requirements for the statutory period. If successful, the court can grant them legal title to the property.
  • Property owners are advised to regularly inspect their properties, post "No Trespassing" signs, and take swift legal action if squatters are discovered. These steps can help deter squatters and protect the owner's property rights.
  • Property owners in Mississippi have several legal remedies to remove squatters, including filing trespass lawsuits, eviction lawsuits, and seeking damages for any property damage or lost rental income caused by squatters.
  • Adverse possession claims cannot be made on property owned by the federal, state, or local government, ensuring public lands are protected from private ownership claims through squatting.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I claim squatters rights in Mississippi?

To claim squatter's rights, or adverse possession, in Mississippi, you must openly, continuously, and exclusively use and occupy the property without the owner's permission for a statutory period, typically 10 years. After meeting the statutory period and requirements, you must file a lawsuit against the legal property owner to claim ownership.

What is the squat law in Mississippi?

The squat law, or adverse possession law, in Mississippi allows individuals to gain legal ownership of property they do not hold title to by occupying it under certain conditions—hostile, actual, open & notorious, exclusive, and continuous possession—for a statutory period of 10 to 30 years.

What are the 5 requirements for adverse possession for Mississippi?

  1. Hostile Possession: Occupation without the owner's permission.
  2. Actual Possession: Physical occupation and use of the land.
  3. Open & Notorious Possession: The possession must be visible and obvious to anyone, including the legal owner.
  4. Exclusive Possession: The property must be occupied and used only by the squatter, not shared with the public or the owner.
  5. Continuous Possession: The squatter must reside on or use the property without interruption for the entire statutory period of 10 to 30 years, depending on specific conditions like payment of property taxes.

Is squatting illegal in Mississippi?

Yes, squatting is technically illegal in Mississippi as it involves occupying property without the owner's permission. However, if a squatter meets all the legal requirements for adverse possession for the statutory period, they may be able to legally claim ownership of the property. Until then, property owners have the right to evict squatters and may press charges for trespassing.

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