Some real estate theft won’t land you in jail

A look at adverse possession, prescriptive easements

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Quite some time ago, I received a very nasty letter from a lady who moved into a vacant house near Fresno, Calif. She reported she lived there almost three years before being evicted by the mortgage lender foreclosing on the property. "Why don't you warn readers about the risks of 'squatter's rights' and spending money to fix up vacant property?" she chastised me. Unfortunately, that woman was uninformed about the state law of adverse possession (formerly called "squatter's rights"). Every state has some version of this common law doctrine, which encourages use and payment of property taxes on vacant property. Purchase Bob Bruss reports online. Most states adopted English common law in the 1800s and early 1900s (except Louisiana, which chose the French Napoleonic Code). Common law includes the law of adverse possession, which allows a "squatter" to claim title after occupying a property and paying the property taxes for a specified number of years. The details of each state's adver...