Wyoming Squatters’ Rights & Adverse Possession Laws - 2024

Introduction to Squatters’ Rights in Wyoming

Squatters’ rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the ability for a person to legally gain ownership or other rights to a property they have continuously occupied or maintained without the property owner's permission. The rationale behind squatters rights laws is that if a property owner has neglected their land for a significant time, and another person has maintained or occupied it without objection, the squatter gains certain rights to the property.

In Wyoming, a squatter can gain legal ownership of real property through adverse possession if they occupy the land openly, continuously, and exclusively for 10 years. The squatter must meet several requirements during this time. They must demonstrate their use and control is actual, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous for the full 10 year period. The squatter must also pay any property taxes on the land during those 10 years. If these requirements are met, the squatter can file a lawsuit and gain full legal title. The previous owner will lose all rights to the property.

Wyoming's adverse possession laws are similar to many states, requiring 10 years of continuous, open occupation to claim squatter's rights. However, some states have longer time periods such as 20 or 30 years of use required before a squatter can take ownership. Wyoming's laws provide a shorter path for squatters to gain rights compared to states with longer time requirements.

Requirements for Adverse Possession in Wyoming

To claim adverse possession in Wyoming, you must occupy and use the land openly, exclusively, and continuously for 10 years. Simply trespassing on land or using it sporadically does not establish adverse possession.  

The use must be:

Open and Notorious

It must be obvious to anyone, including the legal owner, that you are occupying and using the land. You cannot hide your use.


You must be the only one possessing and using the land. Sharing use with the owner or public does not qualify.  


Your use cannot stop for long periods. You must possess and use the land for the full 10 years without extended gaps. Occasional brief interruptions like vacations may be acceptable.

In addition to using the land, you must pay all property taxes for the full 10 year period. If the owner is paying taxes, it interrupts the continuity of your possession. 

You should also maintain the land and make improvements like buildings, fences, gardens, etc. This helps demonstrate the required elements of open, exclusive use. Simply finding abandoned land and doing nothing is not enough.

The 10 years must run continuously. If any legal proceeding interrupts the period, even briefly, the clock restarts. You must strictly meet all requirements for the full 10 consecutive years to claim adverse possession.

Gaining Ownership Through Adverse Possession

In Wyoming, a squatter can gain legal ownership of a property after 10 years of continuous, open and obvious occupancy and use. The 10 year time period does not begin until the squatter's presence and use of the property is apparent to the legal owner and the public. 

For the first 10 years, the squatter has no legal rights and the legal property owner can take action to remove them at any point. However, after 10 continuous years of adverse possession, the squatter essentially gains the property rights from the legal owner.

The legal owner loses all rights to the property after 10 years of uninterrupted adverse possession. At that point, the squatter can legally register a deed for the property even without permission from the previous owner. 

When it comes to mineral rights, the surface rights and mineral rights of a property can be adversely possessed separately in Wyoming. This means a squatter may be able to gain ownership of mineral rights even if someone else possesses the surface rights. The 10 year adverse possession clock starts when the squatter begins extracting and benefiting from minerals or preventing the legal owner from doing so.

Preventing Squatters in Wyoming

Wyoming's vast areas of remote and undeveloped land can make monitoring for squatters more challenging. However, there are steps landowners can take to deter squatters and strengthen their legal protection:

  • Regularly monitor your property, especially remote or undeveloped areas, for any signs of trespassing or occupation. Document with photographs.
  • Post no trespassing signs around the perimeter of your land. Ensure signs are clearly visible. 
  • Erect fences and gates to define property boundaries and restrict access.
  • Brush and vegetation removal makes it easier to monitor the land and removes potential shelter for squatters.
  • Frequent use of the property, through activities like camping, hunting, or leasing mineral rights, helps demonstrate active ownership. 
  • Have a caretaker or property manager periodically inspect vacant structures when away.
  • Document everything, keep records of property inspections, photographs, maintenance, taxes paid, etc. 
  • Promptly evict anyone found occupying your property without permission. Involve law enforcement if they refuse to leave.

Taking proactive measures to monitor your land and demonstrate ownership can help protect your rights and prevent loss through adverse possession claims. Consult a local real estate attorney for guidance tailoring a prevention plan for your specific property.

Examples of Adverse Possession Cases in Wyoming

There are a few notable cases of successful adverse possession claims in Wyoming's history. These real-world examples help illustrate how squatter's rights have been interpreted and enforced in the state:

The Slagowski Ranch Case

One famous case involved the Slagowski family ranch in rural Wyoming. The Slagowskis had occupied a 640-acre parcel of land openly and exclusively for over 10 years. Although they did not have a deed for the land, they had maintained it and made improvements by building fences, irrigation systems, and other structures. When the descendants of the original owners claimed ownership decades later, the court found in favor of the Slagowskis who had fulfilled the requirements for adverse possession.

Johnson County Cabin

In another case, a man purchased a remote cabin and 80 acres in Johnson County in the 1990s. Unbeknownst to him, a squatter had already moved in and begun openly occupying the property 2 years earlier. The squatter continued living there after the purchase, claiming adverse possession rights. After over 10 years of continuous use, the squatter was able to take legal ownership.

Successful Prescriptive Easements

Beyond outright adverse possession, there have been cases of Wyomingites gaining prescriptive easements for access roads, trails, irrigation ditches, and other routes across private property. These easements allow limited access or use of portions of others' land. With open and continuous use over 10 years, the easements become permanent legal access rights.

Overall, these examples showcase how persistent yet unlawful occupation of land eventually led to legal rights for squatters in Wyoming. For better or worse, through consistent adverse possession, squatters can gain legitimate claim over property that was never theirs originally.

Squatters Rights on Government Land

Squatters cannot legally claim adverse possession on land owned by the state or federal government. This includes national forests, parks, wilderness areas, and other public lands managed by government agencies. 

The main reason is that adverse possession requires paying property taxes, which are not levied on publically owned lands. Government properties are immune from adverse possession claims.

Additionally, public lands are required to be open for public use and enjoyment. Allowing private adverse possession would go against the mission of conservation and access. The government actively monitors and manages public lands, making it difficult for squatters to occupy without being removed.

Attempting to adversely possess public land would be considered trespassing. In Wyoming, trespassers on state land can face fines up to $750 per violation. Federal land trespassers may get up to 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Overall, squatter's rights do not apply to federal and state owned properties in Wyoming. The continuous open use requirement is virtually impossible to achieve on monitored government land before being removed by authorities.

History of Squatters Rights in Wyoming

Squatters rights in Wyoming originate from early homesteading practices in the 19th century. With vast areas of unclaimed land, some settlers would occupy and improve land without having legal title to it. They relied on the legal concept of adverse possession, believing that their effort to work and live on the land gave them certain rights.

As Wyoming developed more legal procedures around property ownership, adverse possession remained on the books as a viable way to gain title to abandoned land. The requirement of 10 years of continuous occupancy and use dates back to Wyoming's early statehood. 

There have been a few attempts over the years to modify adverse possession rules in Wyoming. In 1989, a bill was proposed to extend the requirement to 20 years, but it failed to pass. In 2001, another bill tried to restrict adverse possession for mineral rights only, but also failed.

Overall, the history of squatters rights in Wyoming reflects the tensions between development and wilderness, and the conflicts around land ownership that shaped the American West. The concept granted more leniency to settlers occupying vacant lands based on productive use and labor. Despite some controversy, adverse possession remains a lawful means to gain title today in Wyoming after meeting stringent requirements. The 10 year timeframe has persisted as a compromise between development and protecting ownership.

How Wyoming Compares to Other States

Wyoming's squatter's rights laws are similar to other states in some ways but have key differences too. The required occupancy time to make an adverse possession claim in Wyoming is 10 years, which is on the shorter side compared to many states. 

For example, California, Florida, and Illinois all require 20 years of continuous occupancy before an adverse possession claim can be made. Wyoming's 10 year requirement is the same as neighboring states like Idaho, Utah, and Montana. However, some states have even shorter time requirements such as just 5 years in Alaska and 7 years in Missouri.

In addition to the length of required occupancy, Wyoming is in line with most states in requiring the possession to be actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and continuous over the statutory period. However, Wyoming differs from some states in that it requires the adverse possessor to have paid all taxes on the property during the 10 years. Not all states have this requirement to pay taxes in order to make the claim.

Overall, Wyoming's squatter's rights laws give slightly more protection to squatters compared to some states by having a shorter required occupancy period. However, the laws are not extremely out of line with other states. Wyoming strikes a balance between states that are more strict and make adverse possession more difficult, and states that are more lenient with shorter time periods and fewer requirements.

Arguments For and Against Squatters Rights

Squatters rights laws spark debate between property rights advocates and those arguing for fairness and land use.

Arguments For Squatters Rights

  • Allows productive use of abandoned properties that owners have neglected. Squatters can make improvements and pay taxes.
  • Punishes landowners who neglect their properties and don't monitor their land. Adverse possession encourages owners to be responsible.
  • Provides homeless people an avenue to legally occupy and ultimately own property after investing labor. 
  • Can lead to affordable housing when properties are transformed from abandoned to livable through a squatter's efforts.

Arguments Against Squatters Rights

  • Infringes on property rights of landowners. Owners lose legal rights even if they intend to use the land later.
  • Allows "theft" of property that rightfully belongs to the owner, even if neglected. Adverse possession rewards trespassing.
  • Hurts landlords and developers who may have unused property that squatters can claim rights to. Discourages investment.
  • Rural landowners with large properties are most affected since monitoring land is difficult. Risk of losing land is greater.
  • Neglected properties may have liens or unpaid taxes, which the adverse possessor is responsible for. Unfair financial burden.
  • Adverse possession cases clog up the legal system, requiring significant time and resources to settle property disputes.

The debate involves balancing property rights against principles of fair use and equity. Advocates on both sides make compelling points around ownership, land rights, and the role of adverse possession.

The Future of Squatters Rights in Wyoming

The future of squatters rights in Wyoming through adverse possession is uncertain, with arguments on both sides of whether the law should be changed or left as is. 

Some groups argue the 10-year requirement to claim adverse possession is too short, and should be extended to 20 or 30 years. They believe it's too easy for squatters to take ownership of property, hurting landowners and developers. 

However, others argue squatters rights through adverse possession should remain as is or even be reduced. They say it helps ensure property that's truly abandoned or unmaintained gets used productively again. It also gives poorer Wyoming residents a path to land ownership.

Eliminating adverse possession altogether would likely impact squatters the most, taking away a legal avenue for them to eventually gain property ownership. It could also lead to more unmaintained properties if owners know they can't lose rights.

Landowners and developers would benefit if adverse possession claims were made more difficult and the timeframe extended. However, this could lead to more properties in legal limbo.

Wyoming's culture and laws have historically been influenced by a strong belief in property rights, so major changes seem unlikely. However, the law may see incremental changes over time to balance the interests of various groups. The evolution of squatters rights will likely remain a controversial issue.

Key Takeaways

  1. In Wyoming, squatters rights, or adverse possession, allow a person to gain legal ownership of property they've occupied without the owner's permission, provided they meet certain conditions for a continuous period of 10 years.
  2. To claim adverse possession in Wyoming, a squatter must occupy the land openly, notoriously, exclusively, and continuously for 10 years, including paying all property taxes and making improvements.
  3. Wyoming's requirement for adverse possession is relatively shorter, requiring only 10 years of occupation, compared to 20 or 30 years in some states, offering a quicker path for squatters to claim ownership.
  4. After 10 years of meeting adverse possession criteria, a squatter can legally acquire ownership, with the previous owner losing all rights to the property, allowing for registration of a deed in the squatter's name.
  5. Property owners in Wyoming are advised to regularly inspect their land, post no trespassing signs, erect fences, and maintain the property to deter squatters and protect their legal rights.
  6. Adverse possession in Wyoming reflects historical homesteading practices, with current laws shaped by the state's early development, allowing for property acquisition through productive use and labor.
  7. The concept of squatters rights in Wyoming spurs debate between advocating for the productive use of neglected property versus protecting landowners' rights, with ongoing discussions on balancing these interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Squatting itself is not legal in the sense that occupying someone else's property without permission is against the law. However, Wyoming recognizes adverse possession, which can allow squatters to legally claim ownership of a property after meeting specific conditions over a continuous period of time.

How do I get rid of squatters in Wyoming?

To remove squatters from your property in Wyoming, you should first serve them with a notice to vacate, giving them a deadline to leave. If they do not comply, you may need to file an eviction lawsuit in court. It's advisable to consult with a real estate attorney to ensure you follow all legal procedures correctly and efficiently.

Does Wyoming have adverse possession?

Yes, Wyoming has adverse possession laws. These laws allow a person to claim ownership of a property they've occupied under certain conditions, such as continuous, open, notorious, exclusive use, including paying property taxes, for a period of 10 years.

How long does it take to get squatters rights in the US?

The time required to obtain squatters rights, or adverse possession, varies by state in the US. The period can range from 5 to 30 years, depending on the specific laws of each state. In Wyoming, the required period is 10 years.

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