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Squatter's rights laws in Maryland

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Posted at 1:20 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-24 13:20:16-05

Squatter’s rights aren’t easy to establish in Maryland

Under the state’s adverse possession law, an individual must occupy a space for at least 20 years before attempting to take ownership of a property.

For example, if your neighbor stakes claim to a portion of your property—despite your complaints—and continues to maintain and use that land for 20 years, he or she can sue for ownership as an adverse possessor.

On the other hand, if you’ve invited someone into your home, you can always ask that person to leave.

“When you have decided that you no longer wish that person to remain in your property you may ask them to leave, “ said Jason League, Carroll County’s Chief Deputy State’s Attorney. “If they do not leave, then they’re subject to a criminal trespass action.”

League said property owners then have the right to contact police, and if the person still refuses to leave, they can be charged with trespassing. 

A Carroll County man was recently charged after threatening to burn a woman's house down earlier this month. The victim allowed the man to stay at her home over the holidays, but when she tried to kick him out, he told her he'd established residence. 

RELATED: Taneytown man charged with threatening to burn woman's house down

“You can’t establish residency in somebody else’s property when they’ve given you permission, and now they’re withdrawing that permission,” League said.

It’s a bit different if the unwanted person has an ownership or rental interest.

In that case, property owners have to follow Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws and initiate the lengthy process of eviction in the district court, according to Dirk Schwenk, an Annapolis-based attorney with Baylaw, LLC.  

The best way to safeguard your property, Schwenk says, is to be clear about your expectations ahead of time.

“Don’t casually let people move in for a week or two and let that go on,” he said. “If you let someone move into your house for a period of time, you better make sure they keep moving.”

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