Is Squatting Legal In Illinois? It’s Intense And Complicated
We've all seen people who hang around sheds or buildings that are seemingly abandoned but are they legally allowed to be there?
You know these folks. You've seen them at whatever old building on whatever street corner and you either assume or know that they live there. They're a staple of that part of town to you at this point.
Several states have what's known as "squatters' rights" (called "adverse possession" in the fancy legal words) but they vary. When it comes to squatters, Illinois has way stricter rules than Iowa. But more on that in a second.
What Exactly Is A Squatter?
It's not someone who's just lightyears behind on rent payments. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a squatter is defined as: "one that settles on property without right or title or payment of rent" or "one that settles on public land under government regulation with the purpose of acquiring title".
Are Squatters Legal In Illinois?
Illinois' squatters rights (or "adverse possession" laws) demand that you live on the property for 20 years before it is legally yours, according to Illinois Legal Aid. It's a hot minute away from Iowa. Meanwhile, Iowa requires you to just live on the property 5 years before you can claim the title via adverse possession.
There's More To It
Like with Iowa, you can't just live somewhere for whatever amount of years and poof it's yours. Illinois courts require 5 factors in addition to the 20 years of residency and those are actually in line with Iowa's requirements.
Pretty self-explanatory but that's where you're living for 20 years.
Meaning that the original owner didn't give/sell you the property. If the owner did give you permission to live there but took it back, that can be considered adverse too but you would need proof of that.
This involves treating the property like it's your own and not hiding the fact that you're clearly living there. You don't need fences, signs, or improvements to show that the land is yours, it's just treating it like it is.
Meaning you're not living there with 20 of your besties.
Again, adverse. The Illinois Supreme Court said that if someone other than the owner lives on a property for more than 20 years, the owner "is barred by the statute from making an entry or bringing an action to regain possession."
But. In addition to living in a seemingly abandoned property for 20 years, you would have to be able to prove all 5 of these factors to a court. It's a process though even if you were to get a title via adverse possession. It has to go through a court case and a judge's order.
If you need to prevent squatters, you should monitor the properties that you own. If they pop up and you need to get rid of them, report the criminal trespass to the police.