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Do Texas homebuyers need to worry about squatters in their homes?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Property Law

Recently, there have been several high-profile stories about squatters or non-paying tenants who occupy properties without permission. One story that received national attention involved a family that could not move into a home purchased from the estate of the prior owner because the caregiver of that former owner refused to vacate.

There were allegations of massive power bills and concerns about intentional damage to the property, as well as allegations that the unlawful tenant had attempted to rent the space to other people. The owners are still in the middle of a legal battle to remove the squatter and gain access to the home they paid millions of dollars to purchase.

Those looking to purchase property in Texas may worry that someone else might move in before they do. Do home buyers have to worry about people remaining in a home without their permission after they buy it?

There are options for Texas homeowners

Technically, Texas does have a statute potentially allowing squatters to become the legal owners of a property, but they have to maintain open and sole possession of the property for years to be eligible. Those who purchase real property can take action long before adverse possession proceedings might be an option.

The circumstances leading to an unwanted occupancy determine what options a property owner has. If they purchased a property with a legal lease already in place, then the chances are good that they need to allow the tenant to remain in the property until the end of the lease.

However, if someone without a written agreement claims that they have the right to live there, the process can potentially move a bit faster. The new owner could initiate eviction proceedings in the civil court system as a way to remove the unwanted tenant. Occasionally, it may be possible to hold the prior owner or their real estate agent accountable for failing to secure the property or disclose the presence of tenants or squatters.

Texas generally has relatively strong laws protecting the rights of real property owners. Learning more about those laws may benefit those worried about assuming possession of a property occupied by someone who does not have an ownership interest in the property.