Navigating Squatters Rights in California & Selling Your Property As-Is

Property owners in California expect protection under the law. However, when squatters move into their homes (or those of their loved ones), that belief can disappear. Adverse possession laws and squatters rights mean that lawful owners can sometimes find it challenging to get rid of people on their properties there illegally.

Worse still, going through the legal process to evict squatters is challenging. Many homeowners are successful, but it can take months.

Therefore, many property owners exercise the option to sell as-is to cash home buyers when dealing with squatters. This approach releases capital immediately and avoids the nightmare of having to deal with California’s unfair property laws.

This blog begins with a section explaining squatters rights in California and how they can claim adverse possession. We discuss the legal protection the state offers the original property owner before moving on to how to deal with squatters on your property. Finally, we look at how you can sell your property to a cash property-buying company to exit your investment fast and free up your money.

squatters rights in california

Understanding Squatters Rights in California

Squatting is against the law in California. However, the government still affords some squatters rights, much to the distress of property owners.

The law defines squatting as when someone occupies an abandoned, uninhabited, or vacant property they don’t own or live in without the owner’s permission. The crime combines trespassing with residing in someone else’s property illegally.

Even so, squatters have rights in California via adverse possession claims. These allow them to gain legal ownership of property if they meet the state’s criteria. Squatters can use legal methods to transfer property ownership away from you.

Fortunately, the state puts up some barriers to prevent squatters from exercising their legal rights immediately. Illegal occupants must fulfill various criteria before the state will let them claim legal ownership.

First, a squatter in California must prove continuous possession for five consecutive years. Failing to show a full history undermines their case.

Second, they must show exclusive possession. This means that they must be the sole occupant, not be in a rental agreement, and not share with legitimate tenants.

Third, the squatter must pay property taxes during their stay. The state requires them to behave like a conventional California property owner to gain ownership.

Finally, squatters can help their case by improving the property in some way. For example, if they improve rental properties as holdover tenants, that might bolster their case.

Meeting these requirements set out in real estate law lets squatters make an adverse possession claim. If the courts agree to the claim, they may transfer the title from the actual property owner (you) to the squatters.

In summary, here are some of the specific continuous possession requirements over five years:

  • Hostile possession – the squatters must not pay rent or own the property and live there without the owner’s consent
  • Actual possession – the squatters must physically reside in the property
  • Exclusive possession – the squatters must not share the property with renters or use the property as a rental property
  • Continuous possession – the squatters must remain living in the property continuously for five consecutive years
  • Open possession – the squatters must not try to hide that they are living on the property (sometimes called notorious possession)

Identifying Squatters and Legal Responses

Finding squatters in your home or discovering an adverse possession claim against you can be distressing. However, you can take action to protect your property rights.

The first step is to identify whether you have squatters on your property. This process can be surprisingly challenging as many unauthorized inhabitants try to conceal their occupancy and blend in.

Start by inspecting your property for unauthorized entry. Check broken windows, damaged doors, and evidence of people bypassing security measures. If you use a property management company, ask them if they have seen anything untoward. (The best management companies secure your vacant property and check it periodically for squatter-related issues).

Sometimes squatters set up properties as informal addresses. Therefore, look for evidence of mail in the mailbox (if there is one), trash outside, and furniture you don’t recognize.

Check utility usage at the property. High water, gas, and electric bills would indicate squatters are inside.

Finally, look for people you don’t recognize going to and leaving the property. Vacant properties are a prime target for potential squatters, even if you have rightful ownership.

If you believe you have squatters on your property, don’t confront them directly. Unfortunately, squatter’s rights in California could mean you are breaking the law if you try to evict them. Instead, try a softly-softly approach at first, backed up with legal action if necessary.

Here are some things you could try:

selling a house with squatters in los angeles county

Talk To The Squatters

The first step is to talk to the squatters and offer them something in return for leaving. Many property owners bite the bullet and simply pay them to leave, which they sometimes will.

This approach seems like capitulation, but it is often the most effective. It reduces stress and cost, helping you reclaim your property ownership faster.

Before you pay any money, seek legal counsel. Find out which strategies work best and how to prevent disaster when squatters claim adverse possession. Check you don’t break any squatter’s rights that could cause legal headaches.

Transition The Squatter To A Tenant

Another option is to transition the squatter to a tenant. This approach can reduce the risk of a hostile claim and help you get paid simultaneously.

But be careful. Squatters in California are unlikely to pay rent consistently (if at all). Furthermore, you might set a precedent. Other squatters might try to move into your properties if they believe they will become tenants.

If you have holdover tenants in the property, you could extend their tenancy agreement, particularly if they paid you in the past. Even if they don’t have the legal right to stay according to your contract, getting them to continue making payments can help you maintain the profitability of your rental property.

Serve An Eviction Notice

If the gently-gently approach fails, serve the squatters an eviction notice with proper notice. This legal document tells them when and how they should leave.

If they don’t leave, you can take the eviction process further by going to court. Judges will evaluate the situation regarding your property and hand it back to you, using force if necessary.

Initiate An Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

Another approach is to initiate an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This legal mechanism gives squatters in California three days to vacate a property before being evicted by hand.

Filing an unlawful detainer suit with the court is something you can do to evict people living on your property unlawfully. However, always use an attorney to guarantee you follow the proper legal procedures.

It is also costly. Following all your legal obligations when dealing with adverse possession often means paying thousands of dollars to a legal professional, which doesn’t seem fair if you are the actual owner.

Selling a Property As-Is with Squatters

Another option most people don’t consider is selling a property with squatters as-is to companies like Premier Property Buyers. Taking this approach lets you bypass adverse possession claims and squatter’s rights in California, and get out of the asset fast.

Here are some additional benefits:

  • Avoid the eviction process. Removing a squatter claiming adverse possession can be challenging at the best of times, particularly if they don’t want to leave. The eviction process can be lengthy and expensive, reducing the value of your investment (and sometimes your capital). But when you sell to companies like Premier Property Buyers, you avoid all the hassle. Any evictions become the third party’s responsibility.
  • Reduced renovation burden. You also avoid the burden of renovating the property once you evict the squatters under California property law. You don’t have to fix the plumbing, remove the trash, or wash the carpets. It’s no longer your responsibility.
  • Stop paying property taxes. Finally, once you transfer the property to a third party, you no longer have to pay property taxes, including municipal taxes. That becomes the responsibility of the new formal owner.

Of course, you don’t have to sell your property. As the property owner, you are within your legal rights to fight squatters taking advantage of adverse possession laws. However, that can be challenging and selling is an excellent way to quickly exit your property investment and use the funds for something else.

The price a property-buying company offers for your property will be lower than the market price because they will need to deal with the squatter issue. However, you will still get back most of your capital (which you can then use for more profitable investments).

Property-buying companies assess properties affected by adverse possession in California by considering factors that affect valuation. These include the strength of the adverse possession claim and whether squatters are using the property exclusively, the damage done to the property, the cost of maintaining California squatters rights, and the length of the eviction process. The lower these costs are, the more money you will receive.

The Process of Selling Your Home As-Is to a Cash Buyer

The process companies use to assess properties with squatters in California follows several steps:

Step 1: Contact the property-buying company

The first step is to contact the property-buying company. Providing them with ample information about your adverse possession case will help them determine whether they can purchase the property and speed up how fast you get back the capital tied up in the building.

Step 2: Get A Property assessment

The next step is to assess the property’s market value without squatters present.

Valuers start by considering comparable properties in the area in a similar condition. This assessment gives them a baseline for what the property is worth without squatters in it.

Next, they consider the squatter situation. Where the adverse possession claim is weak, the risk is lower and the value of the property is higher. However, if squatters have been there for a long time without lawful permission and pay their property taxes on time, then the value of the property will be lower because they may have a valid adverse possession claim.

At the same time, third-party property-buying companies consider eviction costs. Considering squatting laws and adverse possession rights helps them determine how long getting rid of the squatters will take and the expenses involved. Fortunately, third-party property-buying companies know the law and understand the process better than most California property owners. That means that they can remove squatters faster, potentially saving existing property owners money, even if they offer a lower amount for the house.

Finally, cash property-buying companies must consider estimates for repairing the property, if damaged. Squatters can wreck interiors, forcing high clean-up costs. Again, this damage will reduce the cash offer for the property you receive.

Step 3: Get An Offer

The third step is to make you an offer, considering the adverse possession claim, any property taxes paid, and squatters rights. Usually, you will receive a discounted price below market value. The size of the discount will depend on the squatter issue.

Step 4: Close The Deal

Finally, you will close the deal. The goal of the property-buying company is to provide you with cash upfront to get out of your property investment fast. Getting a quick sale lets you move on with your life and forget about the squatters altogether.

evicting squatters from a house in california

Preventative Measures Against Squatters

While selling your property for cash is an option, the best approach is always to prevent squatters from residing in your property in the first place. To do this as a legal owner, you need to protect your home. You can do this by:

  • Making your buildings look live-in
  • Securing the property with robust locks
  • Addressing any weak points, such as broken windows
  • Getting neighbors to call you and report any suspicious activity immediately

Even simple actions can discourage squatters and force them to look elsewhere.

Case Study: Squatters Move Into Family Home

A man from San Diego inherited his mother’s home after she died. Since he didn’t need it, he planned on selling it.

However, California squatters took actual possession of the property while he was on vacation. When he returned from overseas, he tried to remove them, but the police and courts would not act quickly.

Consequently, he called a property-buying company. They gave him cash for the residence, helping him liquidate his mother’s estate and leave the squatter problem to professionals.


Now that you have read this blog, you should have a better understanding of how straightforward it is to sell a home as-is, even with squatters in it. Cash property-buying companies, like Premier Property Buyers, can help you cash out of challenging circumstances where dealing with people illegally on your property is too much stress and hassle. They have expertise in removing squatters and dealing with adverse possession in California, helping property owners like you reduce stress and worry, and get on with life.