A squatter is someone who occupies property or land without any legal title or authorization to do so. According to Find Law, the rights of a squatter in Michigan are protected by the state's land use laws, which include the person's rights to acquire the property by adverse possession. This Michigan law says that a person who comes into possession of the property, makes improvements and occupies it publicly can claim title to the property 15 years after he first takes possession. If you are the property owner, you can only remove the squatter by way of legal eviction.
Who Qualifies as a Squatter?
- An individual or group who, without invitation, occupies a vacant residence
- A house guest who refuses to leave
- A tenant who stays beyond the lease expiration
Understanding the rights of squatters is key to understanding how to evict them. Michigan's landlord-tenant laws require a property owner to treat a squatter the same way he would treat a rent-paying tenant with a valid lease. Again, the definition of a squatter is someone who comes into possession of the property, makes improvements, occupies it publicly, and claims title to the property after 15 years. If the person occupying the property meets the definition of a squatter, the law prohibits you from performing actions that discourage the squatter from living in the home. These actions include turning off the utilities, changing the locks or boarding up the windows. Once the squatter takes up residence and begins to live in the home, you must follow proper eviction procedures to remove him.
To legally begin the eviction process, you must do the following:
This document gives the squatter formal notice that you intend to start eviction proceedings against him. In Michigan, you have the option to personally deliver a copy of the notice to the squatter or other individuals known to occupy the property. If the occupants refuse the notice, you can send it by regular first class mail addressed to the squatter. If you do not know the person's name, send the notice to current occupant(s). After serving the occupant, complete the Certificate of Service portion of the notice and save it for your records.
If the squatter remains on the property after the 30 days has expired, you must take legal action to remove him. Prepare and file a summons and eviction complaint in the district court where the property is located. Once the documents are filed, a court date is scheduled and you must then serve the documents to the squatter. In Michigan, the summons and complaint must be mailed as well as delivered by a third party such as a process server. The process server can hand-deliver the documents or affix them to a conspicuous place on the property, such as the front door or window.
The documents are essentially a request for the squatter to appear in court and show cause as to why he should not be evicted. It contains the date, time and location of the eviction proceedings. If the squatter wants to remain in the home, he must appear in court to defend himself.
If the squatter does not appear for the hearing, you win the eviction by default and can legally have the sheriff remove the squatter from your property if he has not left already. If the squatter appears in court, the judge will make a ruling based on the evidence presented by both sides. In most cases, the judge will rule in your favor if you satisfactorily prove that the squatter is a trespasser. After the sheriff has removed the occupant and his belongings, you can legally take possession of your property again.