Most people assume that the only way to legally live in a place in California is to either purchase the property outright or to rent the apartment/house. However, there is another way. In California, if a person manages to evade eviction and live for free in a home/apartment for five years, they may be able to take over legal possession of the property.
There are some legal hoops a squatter must jump through before they are allowed to legally own a California property. The biggest one involves property taxes. While the squatter may manage to evade paying any rent for the time they are living on the property, they will have to pay the property taxes. They’ll have to prove that they, and no one else, have handled the property taxes.
The squatter has to prove that they were the only ones living on the property. They could not have been sharing the property with a roommate, nor could another person have gone partway when paying the overdue property taxes.
In order for the squatter to win an adverse property claim and take over ownership of the property, they must show proof that they have been living on the property and that it’s been their only home for at least five consecutive years.
The instances of squatters winning an adverse possession claim and becoming the owner of a property are quite rare. The number of times that the legal property owner has worked to evict squatters from a property is far more common.
In California, a property owner can’t just kick a squatter off their property. They have to take legal steps to evict the unwanted, non-paying tenant. If the squatters don’t simply leave because you’ve asked them nicely, you’ll have to start the eviction process.
California’s policy for evicting squatters from your property involves the following:
- Proving that you never gave the tenant permission to live on the property
- Showing that you issued a Notice to Quit to the squatters and that the last day to leave the property is listed on the Notice to Quit, and that that day has passed
The Notice to Quit is a vital part of the squatter eviction process. Not only does the Notice to Quit have to be posted in a highly visible spot on the property, such as the front door, but a copy should also be mailed to the unwanted squatter.
If the squatter ignores the Notice to Quit, the property owner must file a Forcible Detainer lawsuit. In addition to making sure the lawsuit is filed with the court, the squatter will also have to be served with the notice. Property owners aren’t advised to handle this on their own, and they should use an impartial process server.
California laws give the squatter five days to file a legal response to the lawsuit. If a response isn’t filed, the property owner should file a Request for Entry of Default/Default Judgment with the court clerk.
The court will respond to the paperwork in 10-20 days, at which point a trial day will be sent to both the property owner and the tenant. Both are expected to appear at the trial, where the case will be resolved. If the property owner wins their case, the judge will explain how they should proceed.