New Mexico Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

What Are Squatters’ Rights in New Mexico?

Squatting refers to occupying an abandoned or vacant property without the owner's permission. A squatter may take up residence in a home, apartment, office building, or other property that appears to be unused and unmaintained. 

Squatters' rights, also known as adverse possession, allow a person occupying someone else’s property without permission to potentially gain legal ownership of that property after a certain period of continuous occupation. The rationale is that if an owner truly cared about their property, they would be maintaining, securing, and looking after it. 

In New Mexico, squatters can gain legal rights to a property under the doctrine of adverse possession after 10 years. This means that if someone occupies a property without the owner's permission for a full decade, pays property taxes, and fulfills other requirements, they may be able to legally register the title for that property under their own name.

Many states have adverse possession laws that allow squatters to eventually gain legal rights. However, property owners also have options for removing unwanted squatters from their land. This guide will examine New Mexico’s squatter’s rights laws, adverse possession requirements, and steps property owners can take to prevent or remove illegal occupants.

Adverse Possession in New Mexico  

In New Mexico, squatters can gain legal ownership of a property through a law called adverse possession. Adverse possession allows a squatter to acquire the title to a property if they maintain continuous possession of the property for 10 years.  

The continuous possession time period means that the squatter must actually occupy the property for the full 10 years, without any significant lapses or gaps. They must use the property as if they were the true owner during this time. The possession also must be obvious and overt, so that a reasonable owner would be aware of it. Secretly squatting on a property would not fulfill the continuous possession requirement.

Adverse possession laws encourage squatters to make productive use of abandoned or vacant properties. However, the time period is long in order to give a legal property owner adequate opportunity to take action and evict squatters from their land. Overall, the continuous 10 year occupancy period aims to strike a balance between protecting property owners and allowing the transfer of unused property to new owners.

Requirements for Adverse Possession

To successfully claim adverse possession in New Mexico, a squatter must meet several legal requirements. The adverse possession requirements are:

Continuous Occupation

The squatter must physically occupy the property for the entire statutory period of 10 years. This means using the property as their primary residence or conducting regular business on the property. Occasional or sporadic use is not sufficient. The occupation must be continuous for the full 10 years.

Exclusive Occupation

The squatter must possess the property exclusively, without shared or intermittent possession with strangers, the public, or the owner. They must exercise complete control and use of the property.  

Open & Notorious Possession

The squatter must use the property openly and without making any effort to conceal their possession. Their occupancy must be obvious to anyone, so the owner has opportunity to notice and take action.

Hostile Possession

The squatter's occupation must be hostile, meaning without the owner's permission. They cannot have permission from the owner to be on the property. The possession must be truly adverse and against the rights of the true owner.

Paying Property Taxes

The squatter must pay all property taxes during the 10-year statutory period. This helps demonstrate their role as the acting property owner.

Proving Adverse Possession

In order to claim adverse possession, a squatter must be able to prove they meet the requirements. The burden of proof is on the squatter to show the adverse possession was actual, visible, exclusive, hostile, under claim of ownership, and continuous for the statutory period of 10 years. 

The squatter must provide evidence of the following:

  • They occupied the property for 10 continuous years. This can be shown through utility bills, repair records, testimony of neighbors, or other documentation indicating continuous residence.
  • The occupation was hostile and without permission from the legal owner. The squatter must show they did not have an agreement with the owner to be on the property and that the owner did not give them permission.
  • The squatter exercised exclusive possession and control over the property. They used the property as their own to the exclusion of others.
  • The squatter paid property taxes on the land. Tax receipts can help satisfy this requirement.
  • They occupied the property openly and visibly. The ownership by the squatter must have been obvious and not concealed.

Without solid evidence and proof, the squatter cannot successfully claim adverse possession. Property owners can protect themselves by monitoring their property and documenting any unauthorized use. Consultation with a real estate attorney is recommended for guidance on the specific evidence rules in New Mexico.

Risks of Squatting in New Mexico

Squatting in New Mexico carries a number of risks that need to be considered. The most direct risk is eviction. Property owners have the right to file a lawsuit to evict squatters at any time before the 10-year requirement for adverse possession is met. Sheriff's deputies can forcibly remove squatters from the property if an eviction is successfully obtained through the courts. 

Squatters also face the risk of being held responsible for any property damage, vandalism, or theft that occurs while they occupy the property. Even if they gain ownership through adverse possession, squatters can still be sued by the original owner for damages. Things like removing copper piping, damaging walls, breaking appliances, and stealing fixtures or materials can lead to hefty fines.

Additionally, squatters may incur civil and criminal charges for breaking and entering if they forcibly occupy a property through changing locks or damaging windows and doors. There is the ongoing risk of being arrested for trespassing if the owner presses charges. 

Overall, squatting in New Mexico involves considerable legal and financial risks until adverse possession rights are obtained through 10 years of continuous, hostile occupation and payment of taxes. Squatters should be prepared to be evicted, sued, fined, arrested, and even removed by force at any time if the owner takes action against them.

Signs of Squatters on Your Property

Some clear signs that someone may be squatting on your property without your permission include:

Belongings or personal items

If you see backpacks, clothing, furniture, or other personal belongings on the property, it's a clear sign someone has occupied the space. Locked storage sheds or tents may also indicate squatters.

Damage or vandalism

Squatters may cause excessive damage like broken windows, graffiti, or forced entry. This destruction of property shows disrespect for the owner.

 Unpaid utility bills

If utility bills for the property suddenly stop being paid but are still accruing charges, it likely means someone unauthorized is occupying the space and using utilities.

Unpaid taxes

County tax records can reveal if property taxes are going unpaid. Squatters typically will not pay taxes on an illegally occupied property.

Trash or debris

Piles of garbage and food containers around the property suggest people are living there. Look for makeshift campsites too.


Cars, RVs, or buses parked on the property that don't belong to the owner may indicate squatters. They may even alter the land itself to create "driveways" or vehicle access points.

Stay vigilant for these types of signs that your New Mexico property may have unauthorized occupants. Don't delay taking legal action if you discover squatters on your land.

How to Evict a Squatter in NM

If you find squatters on your New Mexico property, you will need to file a lawsuit to evict them through the court system. Here are the steps:

Document Evidence

Collect evidence like photographs, videos, and records that demonstrate the squatters do not have any legal right to be on the property. Get statements from neighbors or others who have witnessed the squatting.

Serve Eviction Notice

Draft and officially serve the squatters with a written eviction notice giving them a specific window of time (e.g. 5 days) to vacate the property before further legal action.

File Eviction Lawsuit

If squatters do not leave after the stated timeframe, you can file a lawsuit with your local district court to have them evicted. Provide all documentation and evidence to the court.

Court Order

If the judge rules in your favor, the court will issue an eviction order demanding the squatters leave by a certain date. If they do not comply, the sheriff can physically remove them.   

Call the Police

If squatters refuse to obey the court ordered eviction, the local police can assist in their forcible removal and arrest if they resist. The sheriff may supervise to ensure they vacate the property as ordered.

Having an official eviction order from the court is crucial for enlisting law enforcement assistance with squatters. Do not attempt to remove squatters without going through the proper legal process.

Preventing Squatting  

To avoid issues with squatters, property owners should take proactive measures to secure and maintain their property. Some tips for preventing squatting include:

  • Secure all points of entry to the property. Check that all doors and windows are locked and cannot be forced open. Consider installing security alarms and motion-sensor lights.
  • Have someone regularly maintain the property if it will be vacant for long periods. This includes mowing the lawn, picking up mail and flyers, and generally making the property look occupied.  
  • Post "No Trespassing" signs around the perimeter. Also post contact information for the owner or property manager.
  • Monitor the property frequently for any signs of attempted occupancy if vacant. Document with photos or video any issues like vandalism or suspicious activity.
  • If planning to leave the property vacant long-term, consider draining plumbing and winterizing systems to avoid property damage.
  • Make sure the property is insured against all risks. Document valuable items in case of theft.
  • Ensure property taxes and any HOA dues are paid to date. Consider hiring a property manager to handle maintenance.
  • In high risk areas, install security cameras, fencing and heavy-duty locks to deter squatters.

Taking the right precautions can help ensure squatters don't take up residence and gain adverse possession rights on your New Mexico property. Be vigilant and take action at the first sign of an attempted occupation.


Squatters rights and adverse possession laws in New Mexico allow occupiers of abandoned properties to gain legal ownership after 10 years of continuous possession. While this may seem concerning to property owners, being aware of the requirements for adverse possession and taking preventative measures can help avoid losing rights to squatters. 

The key points to understand are that squatters have no rights until they fulfill the 10-year occupancy requirement. Property owners can take action to remove squatters at any time during those 10 years. Securing entry points, maintaining the property, and monitoring for occupancy are important preventative steps.

If you find squatters occupying your New Mexico property, take action right away to evict them through the court system. With the proper steps, property owners can protect their rights and prevent adverse possession by squatters. Being informed about New Mexico's squatter and abandonment laws is the best defense.

Key Takeaways

  • In New Mexico, squatters can potentially gain legal ownership of a property under the doctrine of adverse possession after occupying it continuously for 10 years, provided they meet specific legal requirements, including paying property taxes.
  • For a squatter to claim adverse possession in New Mexico, they must demonstrate continuous, exclusive, open, notorious, and hostile possession of the property for a full decade, along with paying property taxes during this period.
  • The squatter must physically occupy the property as their primary residence or business for the entire statutory period of 10 years without significant lapses or gaps in occupancy.
  • Squatting carries risks, including eviction by the property owner, potential legal action for damages, and the possibility of criminal charges for trespassing or property damage.
  • Property owners can prevent squatting by securing their property, conducting regular inspections, posting "No Trespassing" signs, and maintaining the property's appearance to deter unauthorized occupancy.
  • To legally evict squatters from a property in New Mexico, property owners need to file an eviction lawsuit, providing evidence of the squatters' unauthorized occupancy, and obtain a court order for eviction.
  • Squatters claiming adverse possession must prove their case in court by providing evidence of their continuous, exclusive, open, notorious, and hostile possession of the property for 10 years, including proof of property tax payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of squatters in New Mexico?

To remove squatters from your property in New Mexico, you will need to file an eviction lawsuit against them in court. Provide evidence like photographs that they are occupying the property without your permission. If the court rules in your favor, the local sheriff can then forcibly remove the squatters from the premises.

What are squatters rights in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, squatters can gain legal ownership of a property through adverse possession after 10 continuous years of occupation. The squatter must exclusively possess the property and pay any property taxes during that time. Once the 10-year period passes, they can file a lawsuit to claim legal ownership of the land.

What is adverse possession law in New Mexico?

New Mexico recognizes the legal principle of adverse possession. This law allows a person to gain ownership of an abandoned property if they exclusively occupy it and pay taxes for 10 consecutive years. The owner cannot give them permission. After 10 years, the squatter can file a lawsuit to claim legal title.

How long until property is abandoned in New Mexico?

New Mexico does not have a specific time frame for when a property is legally considered abandoned. It depends on the unique circumstances of each case. Factors like the condition of the property, whether taxes are paid, and the owner's intent are evaluated. But a property that is unused for 10+ years could potentially be considered abandoned.

Featured Tools
Finding and Selecting the Best Tenant
For a $2,000 monthly rental: 1. You lose $1,000 if you have your rental on the market for 15 additional days. 2. You lose $1,000+ for evictions. Learn how to quickly find and select a qualified tenant while following the law.
More Tools