Squatters’ rights, or adverse possession, are a set of legalities designed when homesteading was popular. The government wrote the Homestead Act of 1862, specifying rights to provide legal support for pioneers who moved onto land they perceived as vacant, built a home, and started raising livestock or growing crops. This was a way for pioneers to expand the amount of land under the U.S. government at the time.
Even though there might have been a time and place for these specific laws, this legislation remains on the books. The idea of moving onto vacant land or an empty home and making it your own still exists, meaning the laws still protect squatters.
The critical point that you should remember about squatters’ rights is that they are eligible to stay on your property unless you have not reported them within a specific period. As a lawful owner, you may not know about squatters at your vacant home for years, but they have the legal right to stay on your property if they pay back taxes, if any, and other necessary fees for the property.
The relations between a squatter and property owners are not the same as between a landlord/owner and a renter. Renting a house or apartment always requires documentation, for example, a basic lease agreement that helps solve any landlord-tenant dispute. Squatters act independently and may pretend to have legal documents that “confirm” their legal occupation of a specific place or land, but these documents certainly do not ensure law enforcement is on their side.
Nevertheless, you cannot remove squatters without an official eviction notice. You cannot use violence against adverse possessors, either. Otherwise, they can file a lawsuit against you. A court may not consider your statements that you were protecting your property as valid.