How To Sell A House With Squatters In Tennessee

picture of a gavel after squatters have been evicted

Mention the word “squatter” and it might conjure the idea of a stranger moving into a house uninvited and trying to live there for as long as they can. While that is certainly one type, it’s not the only version of what we know as squatters. There are “professional squatters” who move from vacant home to vacant home, setting up utilities in their names, and attempt to prove they belong there. There is also the kind of squatter who comes with a short sale property and can be difficult to evict with a process often taking up to 60 or 90 days. 

Quick Facts For Tennessee

  • How to Get Rid of Squatters: Filing a judicial eviction (i.e., serving a 14-Day Notice)
  • Required Time of Occupation: 20 years of continuous occupation, 7 if squatter has color of title
  • Color of Title: Not required, but reduces required continuous occupation time to 7 years
  • Property Taxes: Required, unless squatter has color of title

How do I sell a house with squatters in Tennessee?

How to sell a house with squatters in Tennessee? Don’t worry, if you own a property with a squatter and you’re trying to sell it, there are options you can take to move forward. Here are all the ways you can sell a house with squatters.

Know The Laws

Depending on where you live, you can save yourself the hassle of dealing with squatters by knowing what the local laws say about tenant requirements. For instance, some states have laws stating that a person who lives in a property for more than 30 days technically becomes a tenant, even if that person was staying there as a short-term renter. (A good thing to know if you are using a service such as Airbnb, which people often use to rent properties for longer than four weeks). It’s a sneaky trick that some squatters have used to take advantage of legal loopholes and make it hard for landlords to get rid of them.

In Tennessee, for instance, adverse possession protects a person’s right to stay on a piece of land on where they have lived without incident for years. Home and property owners here will want to understand what that means when it comes to renters and potential evictions.

Alert the Authorities

If you find that your presumably vacant property suddenly has squatters taking residence there, you might be able to have them removed from the home with the help of the local police. Technically, a squatter is someone who doesn’t belong in your private property and is therefore trespassing. Let the police know and when they arrive, present them with documentation that proves you own the house. The squatter will be asked to provide their own documents to prove they are allowed to be there. Depending on what is presented, the police may or may not be able to remove them from the property at that time. Some of the other reasons that would sway them, however, is how livable the property currently is, whether there is furniture in the house, or if the utilities are currently turned on.

Color of Title

Not sure what the term ‘color of title’ means? Color of title simply means that the squatter has gained ownership of the property through an irregular way. They may be missing the correct legal documents., memorials, or registrations. 

In Tennessee, color of title is not required to make an adverse possession claim. However, THE BIGGEST RISK TO YOU IS, If the squatter obtains color of title, it reduces the required continuous occupation time to 7 years instead of the usual 20 years. With any sort of documentation that conveys ownership, a squatter must only occupy the property for 7 years before they can make a claim. A squatter who has successfully completed an adverse possession claim would obtain color of title.

Consider Cash

“Professional squatters” are going to make it very hard for you to evict them from the property. They might create false documents that make it look like they have the right to be there. They could attempt to take advantage of your municipality or state tenancy laws. They may simply refuse to leave altogether. That means that you’re either going to have to begin the eviction process, which can be costly and time-consuming, or you could call their bluff and make them an offer to leave. It doesn’t feel good and you run the risk of them taking your money and staying put, but plenty of frustrated landlords have done it just to get the squatters out.

Begin the Eviction Process

If the police can’t force the squatters to leave and they refuse to budge despite your protests, the next step might be to begin the legal eviction process. Every state has different laws and procedures but you’ll start by issuing an eviction notice. If you’re lucky, that will scare the squatters into leaving. If not, they will have a specific time period in order to take action (often 30 days).

If they do not leave, you then file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in each person squatting in the property. The sheriff’s department or local authorities will serve the lawsuit personally and a hearing is likely scheduled within 21 days. At the hearing, the judge will rule, hopefully in your favor to evict the squatters, who then have a certain number of days to vacate the property before the sheriff changes the locks for good.  

As you can see, while this process can be effective, it takes a long time and that presumes that it’s successful the first time and the judge rules accordingly. The costs involved in an eviction case can skyrocket the longer it takes and the more the squatter pushes back. Plus, if the squatter still refuses to leave after the ruling, you’ll have to hire a sheriff or police officer to physically remove them.

Remove Leftovers & Clean Up

dirty house that squatters have lived in

Once the squatters are out, you’re going to want to give the property a thorough cleaning. Chances are they didn’t take good care of the place and they may have even trashed it purposefully out of spite. You’ll want to check local laws to see if you are allowed to trash anything they’ve left behind or if you need to follow the procedure for salvaging it. As for your house, it’s going to need a solid cleaning and you’d be smart to do a once-through to make sure nothing has been broken or damaged. If you plan to list the house on the market, you’ll need it to be in ideal condition. No one wants to move into a house that looks like squatters were living in it.

Sell the House As-Is

Dealing with and getting rid of squatters can be an emotionally taxing situation, not to mention an expensive endeavor if they won’t leave on their own. Regardless, it’s a hassle that takes up your time, money, and energy. And that’s before you get into cleaning and renovation costs. So rather than go through the entire process in order to sell the house, why not consider selling it as-is to a cash buyer or real estate investor like Peak Offer? They will buy homes in any condition, including with squatters, give you a fair price, put cash in your hands, and let you walk away while they deal with the property. You avoid all of the drama and hassle that comes with selling a house with squatters or problem tenants and get to start fresh.

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