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Understanding Squatters’ Rights: A Nightmare for Real Estate Owners

Oct 26 | 2023  by

Recently, I read an article out of Los Angeles that brought up an interesting case of Squatters’ Rights. A Southern California Airbnb owner says their guest hasn’t left the property or paid in 18 months!

Tenant From Hell

Our story begins in September 2021 when a woman rented a Southern California home through Airbnb for 6 months. However, after the tenancy expired, the tenant refused to leave, claiming they were entitled to relocation costs pursuant to Los Angeles’ “Just Cause Ordinance”.

Adopted in March 2023, the ordinance protects tenants at the end of their first lease or six months after lawful occupancy. Under this, tenant no-fault evictions also require the payment of relocation assistance. Therefore, under the guise of disability and breach of city codes by the owner, this tenant-turned-squatter has been living in the property rent-free for over a year AND is requesting $100,000 in relocation fees!

While Michigan does not have a law equivalent to L.A., squatters still have certain rights here. As a responsible real estate owner, it is crucial to be aware of the potential legal issue of squatters that may arise regarding your property so you do not end up in lengthy litigation.

Defining a Squatter in Michigan

A squatter is an individual who occupies a property without the owner’s permission. In Michigan, squatters do not gain ownership rights automatically, contrary to popular belief. However, the law provides certain protections, known as adverse possession laws, in specific scenarios. Specifically, to establish adverse possession in Michigan, an individual must demonstrate possession of a property for a period of fifteen years.

Evicting a Squatter in Michigan

If you discover a squatter residing on your property, swift action is necessary to regain control of your premises. Here is a general outline of the process of evicting a squatter in Michigan:

  1. Determine the legal status of the occupant: Establish whether the person residing on your property is genuinely a squatter or may have some other valid legal right, such as a tenant or a licensee.
  2. File for eviction: If the individual qualifies as a squatter, you must file an eviction lawsuit in the appropriate Michigan court.
  3. Serve notice: Once the lawsuit has been filed, a legal notice must be served to the squatter informing them of the eviction and providing a specified period for them to vacate the premises voluntarily.
  4. Attend the hearing: If the squatter refuses to vacate, a court hearing will take place. Presenting evidence of ownership, non-permission, and the squatter’s lack of payment or a lease agreement is vital to secure a favorable outcome.

Got Squatters? Contact a Real Estate Attorney

Real estate attorneys encounter a variety of situations involving squatters. Here are a few common scenarios they may face:

  • Vacant property occupied: A property owner discovers that their vacant property has been occupied by squatters.
  • Property-use dispute: In some cases, squatters may claim adverse possession rights based on long-term use.
  • Tenant becomes a squatter: A tenant staying beyond the lease term without paying rent can be considered a squatter.
  • Family members claiming possession: Sometimes, family members may occupy a property without permission after the owner’s passing, claiming some form of ownership or inheritance right.

In all of these scenarios, real estate attorneys play a crucial role in protecting the rights of the property owner. They provide legal guidance, prepare necessary documents, and represent their clients in court if required. By enlisting the services of experienced legal professionals, property owners can effectively navigate the intricate legal landscape associated with squatters’ rights in Michigan.

Contact Fausone & Grysko, PLC Today

As a Law Firm that specializes in Michigan Real Estate Law, understanding squatters’ rights and the eviction process is vital to protecting your property from unauthorized occupation. While squatters do not automatically gain ownership rights, dealing with them requires the following proper legal procedures. Consulting with a reputable real estate attorney can provide you with the guidance and representation needed to navigate the eviction process successfully.

Ultimately, each squatter situation is unique, and it is crucial to seek professional legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. By working with a knowledgeable attorney, you can safeguard your property rights and ensure a smooth resolution to any disputes concerning squatters. Contact attorney Denise Medina at Fausone & Grysko, PLC today at (248) 912-3220.