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squatters rights Maryland [Maryland squatting laws]

Do Squatters Have Rights in Maryland?

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As a seasoned real estate professional and investor, I’ve encountered numerous situations involving distressed properties, including dealing with squatters. If you’re a homeowner in Maryland, understanding squatters’ rights is crucial. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on squatters rights in Maryland and Maryland squatter laws, offering practical advice on how to manage these situations effectively.

Understanding Squatters’ Rights

What is a Squatter?

A squatter is someone who occupies a property without the legal right to do so. This can occur in various scenarios, such as abandoned homes, vacant rental properties, or during foreclosure processes. While the presence of squatters can be frustrating for property owners, it’s essential to understand the legal landscape to handle the situation correctly.

Squatters’ Rights in Maryland

In Maryland, squatters’ rights are influenced by the legal concept of adverse possession. Adverse possession allows a squatter to gain legal ownership of a property under specific conditions. This concept has historical roots, dating back to a time when unoccupied land was more common, and establishing ownership through use was a practical necessity.

Maryland Squatter Laws

Adverse Possession

For a squatter to claim adverse possession in Maryland, several criteria must be met:

  1. Hostile Possession: The squatter must occupy the property without the owner’s permission.
  2. Actual Possession: The squatter must physically use the property, such as living there or making improvements.
  3. Open and Notorious Possession: The squatter’s presence must be obvious to anyone, including the property owner.
  4. Exclusive Possession: The squatter cannot share control of the property with others.
  5. Continuous Possession: The squatter must occupy the property for an uninterrupted period of 20 years.

Understanding these requirements is essential for homeowners to recognize and respond to squatter situations promptly.

Relevant Maryland Statutes

Maryland’s adverse possession laws are detailed in MD Code, Real Property, § 6-103. This statute outlines the legal framework for adverse possession claims, emphasizing the importance of continuous, hostile, and notorious occupation.

Common Situations Involving Squatters

Vacant Properties

Vacant properties are prime targets for squatters. Whether it’s a second home, a property waiting for sale, or a house under renovation, leaving a property unoccupied for extended periods increases the risk of squatters moving in.

Foreclosures

During the foreclosure process, properties often remain vacant, creating opportunities for squatters. Homeowners and lenders must be vigilant during this period to prevent unauthorized occupation.

Rental Properties

Landlords may encounter squatters if tenants leave without formally terminating the lease or if new occupants move in without permission. Regular property inspections and clear lease agreements can help mitigate these risks.

Practical Advice for Dealing with Squatters in Maryland

Immediate Steps to Take

If you discover squatters on your property, follow these steps:

  1. Contact Law Enforcement: Report the presence of squatters to the local police. While they may not immediately remove the squatters, this creates a record of unauthorized occupation.
  2. Understand the Legal Process: Eviction is often necessary to remove squatters legally. This process involves filing a lawsuit in district court, obtaining a judgment, and coordinating with law enforcement for removal.

Legal Actions Available to Homeowners

Filing for Eviction

To evict squatters, homeowners must follow Maryland’s legal eviction process:

  1. Serve a Notice to Quit: Provide a written notice to the squatters, informing them they must vacate the property.
  2. File an Eviction Lawsuit: If the squatters do not leave, file a lawsuit in district court.
  3. Obtain a Judgment: Attend a court hearing, present evidence of unauthorized occupation, and obtain an eviction judgment.
  4. Coordinate with Law Enforcement: Work with local law enforcement to enforce the eviction order and remove the squatters.

Utilizing Trespassing Laws

In some cases, trespassing laws can be applied to remove squatters. Maryland law defines trespassing as entering or remaining on property without permission. Homeowners can file a complaint with the police, leading to potential criminal charges against the squatters.

As someone who has bought hundreds of distressed properties, I’ve encountered numerous squatter situations. One memorable case involved a property in Frederick County where squatters had moved in during the foreclosure process. By working closely with law enforcement and following the legal eviction steps, we resolved the issue swiftly.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Squatter Situations

Securing Vacant Properties

Taking proactive steps to secure vacant properties can prevent squatter situations:

  • Install Security Systems: Use alarms, cameras, and other security measures to deter unauthorized access.
  • Board Up Windows and Doors: Secure entry points to prevent squatters from entering the property.
  • Post No Trespassing Signs: Clearly indicate that the property is private and unauthorized access is prohibited.

Regular Property Inspections

Conduct regular inspections of your property, especially if it is vacant or undergoing renovation. This helps identify potential issues early and deters squatters from settling in.

Community Vigilance

Engage with your neighbors and local community to keep an eye on vacant properties. A neighborhood watch program can be an effective way to monitor and report suspicious activities.

Working with Professionals

Consulting with a Real Estate Attorney

Navigating the legal complexities of squatter situations often requires professional assistance. A real estate attorney can:

  • Provide Legal Advice: Help you understand your rights and the legal options available.
  • Assist with Eviction Processes: Guide you through the eviction process, ensuring compliance with Maryland laws.
  • Represent You in Court: Advocate on your behalf during legal proceedings.

Hiring a Property Management Company

A property management company can provide valuable support in managing properties and dealing with squatters:

  • Regular Monitoring: Conduct regular inspections and maintenance to deter squatters.
  • Professional Eviction Services: Handle the eviction process efficiently and legally.
  • Tenant Screening: Ensure that new tenants are thoroughly vetted to prevent future squatter issues.
squatters rights Maryland [Maryland squatting laws]

Final Thoughts: Squatters Laws in Maryland

Dealing with squatters can be a challenging experience for homeowners. However, understanding squatters rights in Maryland and Maryland squatter laws is crucial for managing these situations effectively. By taking immediate action, seeking professional assistance, and implementing preventive measures, homeowners can protect their properties and ensure a swift resolution to squatter issues.

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Maryland Squatters Rights - FAQ's

Can squatters gain legal ownership of a property in Maryland?

Yes, squatters can gain legal ownership of a property in Maryland through a process called adverse possession. This requires the squatter to meet specific criteria, including continuous, hostile, and notorious occupation of the property for 20 years. However, this process is complex and requires legal intervention.

What should I do if I suspect someone is squatting on my property?

If you suspect someone is squatting on your property, you should first contact local law enforcement to report the unauthorized occupation. Additionally, consider consulting a real estate attorney to understand your legal options and begin the eviction process if necessary.

Are there any legal protections for squatters in Maryland?

While squatters do not have explicit legal protections, they can claim rights through adverse possession if they meet the legal requirements. However, the burden of proof is on the squatter, and property owners have several legal avenues to contest and remove squatters.

How can I prevent squatters from occupying my vacant property?

To prevent squatters from occupying your vacant property, you can take several preventive measures:

  • Install security systems such as alarms and cameras.
  • Regularly inspect the property.
  • Secure all entry points by boarding up windows and doors.
  • Post “No Trespassing” signs to deter unauthorized access.

How long does the eviction process take for squatters in Maryland?

The eviction process for squatters in Maryland can vary in duration, typically taking several weeks to a few months. This depends on factors such as the complexity of the case, court schedules, and the responsiveness of local law enforcement. Engaging a real estate attorney can help expedite the process and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. Please consult with professionals for advice specific to your situation.

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Tariq Thomas

Tariq Thomas, has been a full-time real estate investor since 2002 and has personally flipped hundreds of properties. He is the founder and owner of Yes I Pay Cash - We Buy Houses. Tariq's goal is to help home sellers find the best solution for their real estate needs, whether that's selling their home quickly, getting top dollar, or avoiding the hassle of a traditional home sale.

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