Everyone has driven by an abandoned house or building, looked at the dilapidated structure, and thought, surely no one could live there. That's not always the case. I'm sure you've heard of people "Squatting" in long-abandoned buildings.

It's one of those things we hear about but never see.

With North Dakota winters being so harsh and cold, it's not surprising to think that people without homes would seek shelter in the most unlikely of places.

Note: Squatting typically only happens to a property that has been foreclosed upon and abandoned.


Is It Legal?

Is it legal to walk into an abandoned home or building and take residence? Well, the answer is a little complicated.

Have you heard the phrase "Squatter's rights?"

According to TruHomeProperties.com, squatter's rights in North Dakota are a form of "Adverse Possession."

North Dakota's Century Code defines Adverse Possession as the following:

"A title to the real property vested to any person who has been or hereafter shall be, who either alone, or including those whom that person claims, in the actual open adverse and undisputed possession of land under such a title for a period of ten years, and shall have paid all taxes and assessments legally levied thereon, shall be valid in law..."

A person can acquire the property if their Adverse Possession claim is successful/approved.



Requirements For Adverse Possession Approval

1. The squatter must have occupied the property for a minimum of 20 years. The amount of time required could be reduced to ten years if the person had been paying taxes on the property for that length of time (10 years), according to the source. 

2. The person cannot hide that they had been squatting on the property.

3. The squatter may not share possession of the property with others.

4. Interestingly enough, one of the things considered before approving adverse possession is that the squatter treats the property as the owner would.

According to the source, proving this would be done by showing they had made improvements to the structure (e.g., cleaning and general maintenance).


Isn't "Squatting" The Same As Trespassing?

You would think squatting would be classified as trespassing, but that's not the case.

The difference?

Trespassing is defined as entering another person's property without permission.

Squatting, on the other hand, is defined as occupying someone else's land without permission.

Is Squatting legal? The answer, technically speaking, is yes.

According to TruHomeProperties, squatting only becomes trespassing when the owner of the property deems it so, and that the person is no longer welcome. I'm not sure if I'm interpreting this correctly, but essentially, it's only trespassing when you get caught?? Interesting.

Thanks for reading!

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