Under Georgia state law, a squatter can gain property ownership through a law called adverse possession and must meet five requirements to do so. By familiarizing themselves with the rights of squatters in the state, landlords and property owners may be able to prevent someone else from taking ownership of their property.
Defining Squatting Under Georgia Law
A squatter is an individual who lives on an abandoned or otherwise vacant property without the owner's permission in an attempt to claim ownership for themselves. A squatter does not legally own the residence they occupy – the true owner hasn't approved them to pay rent to stay there. The state considers squatting a civil matter, not a criminal act, but may sometimes see it as a criminal action under specific circumstances. If a squatter claims the right to be on a property, the actual landlord or homeowner cannot forcibly remove them without complying with tenants' legal rights.
A trespasser is also a person who enters and occupies a property without the actual owner's permission, but differ from a squatter in that they don't claim to have a legal right to the property. Georgia considers trespassing a crime, but there is an exception to this rule: if a person has an emergency that causes them to trespass, they may not face criminal charges.
Adverse Possession Laws in Georgia
Individuals who wish to take ownership of a property in Georgia may acquire it under adverse possession if they meet specific requirements. For example, they must openly live on the land, pay property taxes, or otherwise act like they already own it. In Georgia, a person seeking an adverse possession claim must live on the property for 20 continuous years before having a legal right to ownership.
Adverse possession gives the squatter the right to take over a property if the owner does not take action within the 20-year time period. Since the property owner cannot take legal action to remove a squatter after that time, they may give it up. Their inaction in removing the squatter is essentially surrender of their property.
Five Requirements for Adverse Possession
State law and the Georgia courts regulate adverse possession claims. A squatter must meet five requirements to claim legal possession of another's property:
- Their claim must be hostile, meaning the squatter does not know who owns the property but they understand that they occupy a place that does not belong to them. This can result from a good faith mistake, such as reliance on an invalid deed.
- They must prove they physically inhabit the property. They can document this by beautifying it or maintaining it while residing there.
- They must not hide their presence on the property; the owner must know, or should know, that they are there.
- They must exclusively live on the property with no other individuals.
- They must live there for a continuous period of time. In Georgia, that's 20 years of continuous possession.
Squatters must show they use, occupy and cultivate the property in a way that attracts the attention of other claimants, but their exclusivity should also prevent someone else from settling on that property. Georgia courts prefer squatters who act in good faith, which means their occupation of the property was an honest mistake and they weren't using fraud to acquire it.
Color of Title
While Georgia allows squatters to occupy a property if they have been on it for 20 years, that time can be shorter under "color of title," which means they have legal documentation to support their claim. In this instance, they can acquire ownership of property in just seven years instead of 20.
Color of title implies that their occupation was a good-faith mistake. For example, if someone buys property, they usually will get possession of the deed for it by the end of the transaction. However, if the title is in error in some way, the deed may be invalid. In this case, the transfer of property to the squatter could be much shorter than usual.
Preventing Squatters from Occupying Property
To prevent squatters from making a successful adverse possession claim, the landlord or property owner can try to keep them from living on the property in the first place. Owners who haven't been on their property in a long time should visit more frequently to make sure no one occupies it. If they can't do this themselves, hiring a property management company to safeguard it from squatters and renting it to paying tenants may help. They should secure all doors and windows with locks or by boarding them up and place "no trespassing" signs to deter anyone from coming onto the property.
If they do find a squatter, property owners can offer the individual the option of renting the property. If they refuse to leave and don't agree to rent it, the rightful owner may need to hire a lawyer and proceed with a court action to evict that individual in possession of the property using the appropriate legal measures.
Evicting Squatters in Georgia
If a squatter is already living on the property, the owner cannot just change the locks or otherwise remove them. They must go through the same eviction process as they would for a legal tenant. The squatter will first receive an eviction notice ordering them to leave the property. Georgia property law doesn't specify how long this should take – this can take anywhere from one day to 10 days.
If the squatter ignores the eviction notice and fails to leave, the property owner can go to court to file a forceful detainer lawsuit. If they succeed, the sheriff will remove the tenant on the property owner's behalf as directed by the court.
A squatter may be able to claim adverse possession of a property in Georgia, as long as they meet certain requirements. If the person wants to claim actual possession/legal ownership of a unit, they need the following: 20 years of continuous possession of the property or seven years with the color of title.How do I evict a squatter in GA? ›
Serve an Eviction Notice
As soon as you identify an unwanted squatter on your property, you should serve them with an eviction notice. Georgia law does not specify the amount of time you must give the tenant to leave, so it can be as little as 24 hours or as much as 60 days.
Nonetheless, the requirements for claiming “squatters rights” are broadly similar across states. You must prove that you have physically possessed the property openly and for a continuous amount of time. Then, you will need to bring suit in court in order to get the title to the property.How long can a squatter stay in your house in Georgia? ›
Georgia doesn't specify the time limits of this notice; the period can be anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days. If the squatter doesn't move out after the expiry of the notice period, take the issue to court immediately and file a forceful detainer lawsuit.How long before a guest becomes a tenant in Georgia? ›
Any guest staying in the property more than two weeks in any six-month period will be considered a tenant, rather than a guest, and must be added in the lease agreement. Landlord may also increase the rent at any such time that a new tenant is added to the lease or premise.How long do you have to squat to get a house? ›
Through the doctrine of adverse possession, a person may acquire the land/title owned by someone else as long as they follow specific requirements. Each state has its own laws regarding squatters' rights and the length of time, between 5-20 years, they must reside on the property to claim it.Can you shoot a squatter in Georgia? ›
Can I shoot a trespasser in Georgia? You cannot shoot a person simply because they are trespassing. You are obliged to ask them to leave if it is safe. If the trespasser does not harm you or your property (perhaps they ended up on your property by accident), you cannot shoot them.How do I evict a guest from my house in Georgia? ›
When evicting a family member with no lease in Georgia, it's wise to assume that the guest has a month-to-month tenancy which needs a 60-day notice to quit. Follow this up by filing an eviction lawsuit with the court if the guest does not leave when the 60 days is up.What is adverse possession in Georgia 7 years? ›
If one adversely possesses land under the color of title for a continuous period of seven years, they can take ownership of it. If one adversely possesses land without any valid basis for believing that they are the owner, the statutory period is 20 years until the land changes ownership.What qualifies a squat? ›
The squat, or deep knee bend, where the top of the lifter's thighs must drop to or below parallel with the ground, demonstrates leg power. The bench press, done from a prone position and requiring a pause of the barbell at the chest, shows upper-body strength.…
Focus on keeping your spine straight and in a neutral position, with your head neutral, not looking up or down. Only lift what you can handle. Avoid going heavy with weight if your form can't handle it. You will benefit more from the squat if you execute it with proper form than you will if you lift too much weight.Can police remove squatters in Georgia? ›
Squatters represent a special case for a property owner. As an unlawful intruder with no right to be in the property, squatters are trespassers and theoretically subject to arrest and removal by law enforcement.What are my rights as a tenant in Georgia? ›
Your landlord is responsible for repairs to keep the property in good condition. Georgia law says that a landlord cannot make a tenant make or pay for repairs, unless that tenant, his/her family or guests caused the damage. For serious repair problems, local housing code departments can inspect for possible violations.Is squatting your truck illegal in Georgia? ›
(c) It shall be unlawful to alter the suspension system of any truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of not less than 4,501 pounds and not more than 7,500 pounds, which may be operated on any public street or highway, so as to exceed 30 inches as measured from the surface of the street to the lowest point on the ...