Squatter’s Rights and Protecting your Arizona Property


Squatter’s Rights and Protecting your Arizona Property

Concerns about squatters, people who unlawfully occupy an uninhabited building, have been circulating in the news lately in 2024. Kyle Simchuk of 12 News reported that worries about squatters are of considerable concern in Arizona due to the large number of snowbirds, individuals who reside only seasonally in their Arizona residences, who fear that their homes will be “taken over” by squatters who move in during the months in which they are left unoccupied. In some cases, squatters will be able to take legal possession of the property.

Do Squatters Have Rights in Arizona?

Each state sets their own laws regarding squatting, with some giving more rights to squatters than others. In Arizona, squatting is known as “adverse possession,” defined as the actual and visible appropriation of the land, commenced and continued under a claim of right inconsistent with and hostile to the claim of another.

Adverse possession can also include other scenarios, such as neighbors misunderstanding their own property boundary lines and allowing one neighbor’s fence to encroach on the other’s property.

Adverse possession must be:

  • Open and Notorious – The squatter should use the property in the same way as the actual owner would use, without disguising the fact that they are present.
  • Actual – The squatter must actually be the one with control over the property.
  • Hostile – The squatter must be staying there without permission or legal right.
  • Exclusive – The squatter must be the only one exercising control over the property, not sharing or alternating control with anyone else.
  • Continuous – The squatter must occupy the property without even a short break for the statutory time period of ten years.

Adverse possession is not favored by the courts, which require all components to be strictly complied with.

A squatter can make an adverse possession claim of the property they have adversely possessed (according to the points above) after:

  • 2 Years – for those with no color of title (partial documentation of ownership) or claim.
  • 3 Years – if they have color of title.
  • 5 Years-for unimproved land that has had taxes paid by the squatter.
  • 10 Years – if the property is occupied and cultivated by the squatter but has not had taxes paid by them.

When Can a Property Owner Recover Their Adversely Possessed Property?

Property owners may reclaim their property under certain conditions.

According to A.R.S. 12-522, when a party in possession claims real property by right of possession only, actions to recover possession from him shall be commenced within two years after the cause of action accrues and not afterward. In such actions defendant is not required to show title or color of title from and under the sovereignty of the soil as against the plaintiff who shows no better right.

According to A.R.S. 12-523, an action to recover real property from a person in peaceable and adverse possession under title or color of title shall be commenced within three years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward.

According to A.R.S. 12-525, an action to recover real property from a person in peaceable and adverse possession, and cultivating, using or enjoying the property, and paying taxes thereon, and claiming under a deed or deeds duly recorded, shall be commenced within five years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward.

According to A.R.S. 12-526, a person who has a cause of action for recovery of any lands, tenements or hereditaments from a person having peaceable and adverse possession thereof, cultivating, using and enjoying such property, shall commence an action therefor within ten years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward.

How Can a Property Owner Recover Their Adversely Possessed Property?

One of the best ways to stop a claim of adverse possession by a squatter is to file a quiet title lawsuit.

Pursuant to A.R.S. 12-1101, an action to determine and quiet title to real property may be brought by anyone having or claiming an interest therein, whether in or out of possession, against any person or the state when such person or the state claims an estate or interest in the real property which is adverse to the party bringing the action.

A quiet title complaint, as outlined in A.R.S. 12-1102, must:

  • Be under oath.
  • Set forth the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s estate.
  • Describe the premises.
  • State that plaintiff is credibly informed and believes defendant makes some claim adverse to plaintiff. When the state is made defendant, the complaint shall set forth with particularity or on information or belief the claim of the state adverse to plaintiff.
  • Pray for establishment of plaintiff’s estate and that defendant be barred and forever estopped from having or claiming any right or title to the premises adverse to plaintiff.

In doing so, the person filing the lawsuit must be able to prove that they are entitled to clear title.

How to Prevent Squatters

Preventing individuals from squatting in the first place is the best way to prevent issues with adverse possession. If you’re going to be away from your property for a period of time, consider the following methods:

  • Keep property secure. Block entryways, install strong locks on doors and windows, and set up security cameras or systems for regular monitoring.
  • Make friends with your neighbors. Let them know you will be gone and ask that they keep an eye out for unusual activity so they can inform you.
  • Post “No Trespassing” signs.
  • Change locks after every tenant moves out, if the property is a rental.
  • Maintain timely payment of property taxes.
  • Install motion sensor lights that can make the property appear inhabited even when it’s vacant.
  • Hire a property manager.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
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At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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