What Are Squatters Rights in California?

A tenant in an apartment speaks to a police officer, who takes notes

Nobody wants to be homeless, and many California residents would go to great lengths to avoid such a fate. Still, California has the highest homeless population in the U.S. It’s a frightening reality that may lead some tenants to overstay a lease or ignore an eviction notice.

When the alternative is an unsafe situation, remaining in place may seem like the least volatile option. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s critical to understand your rights as a tenant.

What are squatters rights in California, and what recourse do you have against eviction?

Unfortunately, the high homeless population in the state is telling. California squatters rights are minimal and do not offer much protection. Still, they may provide enough of a buffer to help some residents find a more secure living situation.

If you’re navigating a squatting situation in California, we’d like to help you understand your rights. Continue reading to learn what landlords can and cannot do to illegal tenants in the Golden State.

What are Squatters Rights?

Another name for squatters rights is adverse possession. In essence, they are the rights someone has to continue living in a property they do not own. The property could be a house, apartment unit, or other structure. Squatters rights laws may allow that individual to continue living on the property, though they have no legal claim.

You may be squatting if:

  • You were evicted and did not vacate the property
  • Your lease ended, and you did not vacate the property
  • Your rent increased, and you chose not to renew the lease at the higher rate
  • You are living in an unoccupied unit without a rental agreement
  • You are part of a squatting community reclaiming an unoccupied residential building

In some cases, squatting may be a form of protest against mass evictions or inequitable housing markets. In the majority of cases, however, individuals find themselves squatting due to a lack of other options.

Squatters Rights can allow squatters to gain legal ownership or possession over a property. This is typically only the case if the squatter has been residing in a property for many years. The number of years varies by state or jurisdiction. Likewise, squatters rights may only apply if the landlord is uninvolved or predatory.

Why do squatters have rights? Typically, it is to protect vulnerable individuals or those being taken advantage of.

What Rights Do Squatters Have in California?

An older woman stands outside of her home with her arms crossed

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the act of squatting or trespassing is illegal in the state of California. You must have authorization from a property’s owner to occupy any residential space, even if it is vacant.

To claim squatters rights in the state of California, you must have been residing on the property for five continuous years. Furthermore, you must have been openly and physically residing in the space. If you made any attempt to hide your occupancy, you cannot appeal for squatters rights.

You also cannot have any form of written legal agreement in place entitling you to occupy the space. This includes a rental agreement. If you overstay a lease or ignore an eviction, you are considered a holdover tenant. In the state of California, you are an illegal squatter.

If you do meet the above criteria, you may be able to file a lawsuit to claim legal ownership of the property in question.

Can Squatters Be Evicted in California?

Yes. Property owners have the right to legal action against squatters in the state of California. This includes the right to evict squatters. Landlords or property owners must give written notice to squatters at least three days in advance.

California’s 30-day squatters rights give illegal tenants 30 days after the notice to vacate the property. If the squatter remains, the property owner may take legal action.

Can You Go to Jail for Squatting in California?

You are unlikely to go to jail for squatting in the state of California, as it is not a criminal offense. You may face fines, eviction, or civil action.

If the property owner files an unlawful detainer action, you can legally be removed from the property by police. This can lead to an arrest.

Protect Your Rights With Support From Bail Hotline

Unfortunately, the answer to “What are squatters rights in California?” may be a bit disappointing for some. Squatters have limited recourse in the state. If you find yourself squatting, you may require support to act with speed and avoid jail time.

If you do find yourself facing jail as a result of an illegal situation, Bail Hotline Bail Bonds can help. Our goal is to help individuals return to their families and their lives. We’ll explain your rights and ensure you have the funds to post your California bail.

Call the experts at Bail Hotline for assistance today.

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