The 2 Ways To Take Ownership Of An Abandoned House In Texas

Trespassers can take ownership of abandoned property in Texas by accident or design.

The prevailing norm in the Lone Star State is that any land claim must be documented in writing. If you want to prove that you are the legal property owner, you need a deed or conveyance. However, there is a significant exception to this rule known as adverse possession.

Whether you live on a farm or in the suburbs, you probably have some neighbors that share boundaries with you. While it may be a shock to honest working Americans, the legal idea of adverse possession allows neighbors to gain ownership of abandoned property. It’s also possible for an unknown trespasser to sit on your private property and later claim legal possession, but this is far less common.

What Is An Abandoned House?

When is a property considered abandoned? The length of time a house remains unoccupied is the most telling factor whether or not it has been abandoned.

You can hardly say that it’s property abandonment if you live in a suburban house in Houston or Dallas and work out of state a lot. You own the place because you still come home to it now and then, even if work takes you away for 24 hours, weeks, or months at a time.

However, if you abandon a vacation house in Conroe for more than ten years, for example, someone else may be able to claim the abandoned property as their personal property, though they will need to satisfy specific conditions to do so. 

How Can I Take Ownership Of An Abandoned House? 

Method 1 – Buy The House

Why not create a deal with the previous owner first? Offer to buy the home if you can manage to find the owner. A simple promise to settle the owner’s delinquent tax records might be all it takes to buy an abandoned property.

But if the owner owed more money on the home when he left it, this figure might be much higher. Visit the county tax assessor and do your homework on the property’s title to ensure you’re not inheriting any unwanted obligations in addition to the ones you’re ready to pay.

After foreclosing on a property, the bank that now owns it will likely try to recoup as much money as possible. Make an offer based on how much you are willing to spend on the home after factoring in the cost of any necessary repairs.

Method 2 – Adverse Possession

According to abandoned property laws, a squatter in Texas may assert ownership of a property through an adverse possession claim. If they fulfill these five requirements, they will have a valid claim:

  • Open Ownership –  The squatter must ensure that it is readily apparent to the general public that they are occupying the property.
  • Exclusive Ownership – Squatters can’t claim adverse possession of a property if they’re cohabitating with other individuals, including the homeowner.
  • Continual Ownership – To launch an adverse possession claim in Texas, the squatter must have been living in the house for a minimum of 10 years without leaving.
  • Actual Ownership – The squatter is expected to make improvements to the property and care for it as if it were their own. 
  • Hostile Ownership – The squatter must show that they plan to take possession of the property from the original homeowner.

Squatters may legally claim an abandoned property if these conditions are satisfied, and the original owner does nothing to evict the squatter or contact law enforcement during a specific time frame, often three, five, or ten years.

In Texas, there are three different statutory periods with additional requirements:

  1. The person squatting can bring a claim after three years. They must show some deed or conveyance for the property.
  2. Another ruling states that the squatter can bring a claim after five years. They need to show proof of cultivating the land. In this case, they will also need to pay property taxes. 
  3. The third ruling states that a claim can be made after ten years without the proof required in the two lesser durations but would need to have met all the other requirements of adverse possession.

What To Do Once You Get Ownership Of An Abandoned Property

Taking ownership of abandoned houses isn’t for free. By performing the required repairs and paying the county taxes within the time frame stipulated in Texas, you might boost your chances of winning the case and gaining legal possession of the abandoned home. The work doesn’t have to be extensive; a leaking roof, for instance, may be repaired. It will definitely help keep the abandoned house in habitable condition. 

Can you live in an abandoned house? Living in an abandoned house is not ideal. If you do win the adverse possession claim, you may want to consider selling the home in its current state and using the money to buy a new, more suitable residence. 

We are here to help you sell your Texas home quickly for cash or to settle a claim. Let us help you determine whether or not finding an abandoned property is worth pursuing, and we can advise you on the processes to follow to acquire the property in question at the most favorable terms.

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