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Can You Sell a House With Squatters?

As a landowner, it's important to know about squatter rights - regardless of whether or not you have unwanted guests on your property. Although, if you're trying to sell, a better question might be can you sell a house with squatters? And what does that process even look like? 

Our East Tennessee home buyer explains what squatters are and the steps for removing them here. 

What Is a Squatter?

A squatter is someone who resides in a property without the landowner's permission. They are not a tenant who pays rent, nor do they have any legal right to live there. 

Squatting is commonly the result of a landowner leaving a property vacant, allowing trespassers in. A squatter could also be a tenant who stops paying rent and won't leave.

What Are Squatter Rights?

After a squatter resides on a property for a while, they may gain squatter rights. Squatter rights, also known as adverse possession, allow squatters to stay in a property if the owner doesn't force an eviction

Many states rule that squatters residing in a house for 30 days become legal tenants. However, this is not the case in Tennessee. Squatters do have rights in Tennessee, but they have to meet the criteria of adverse possession first. If they don't, they can be removed by law enforcement for illegal trespassing. 

We'll touch on adverse possession more later, but the idea is this: A squatter can own property if requirements after a certain amount of time. Each state has its own laws stating when squatter rights come into effect. 

Why Do Squatters Have Rights?

Squatters have rights for a similar reason tenants do, so landowners don't use force when removing someone from their property. If a property owner resorted to violence, the situation could escalate and put either person in danger. 

Unfortunately, some squatters know their rights and exploit the situation, forcing landowners into costly litigation. 

How to Get a Squatter Out of Your House

Squatters should be dealt with immediately. The more time a squatter spends on a property, the harder it is to get rid of them. 

Keep in mind, the process of removing squatters from your property varies by city and state. Check your local laws before taking any type of action. 

Know Your Rights

To avoid issues, get acquainted with your state's laws about squatters. 

In some cases, a squatter can make an adverse possession request after living on a property for some time. Tennessee law states that a squatter must possess the property, continuously, for 20 years to make this claim. The squatter must also meet the following criteria: 

  • They must enter the property without the owner's permission
  • Squatters need to prove how they use or care for the land
  • The squatter must use the property in a manner that's not secret or hidden
  • They must use the land continuously for 20 years (this is reduced to seven years with color-of-title) without sharing possession

If approved, the squatter is no longer deemed a trespasser and has the right to remain on the property. Regardless, adverse possession is rare, considering how long it takes to even become an option. 

Notify the Authorities

If your property is occupied by squatters, alert the authorities immediately. In many cases, squatting is considered illegal trespassing. When the police arrive at your property, you'll want to show proof that the house is yours. 

If you're trying to sell a house with squatters, you may also consider paying them to leave the property

Begin the Eviction Process

If a squatter still won't leave, it may be time to begin the legal eviction process. Each state has different laws, though most start with an eviction notice. 

There are several types of notices you can issue, whether you're reporting a squatter for safety violations or illegal activity. This will give squatters a specific number of days to vacate the property

How to Evict a Squatter in Tennessee

In Tennessee, if a judge grants the eviction, you'll also need to wait for a Writ of Possession to be issued. This is a court order that returns possession of the property to the landowner. A Writ of Possession also serves as a squatter's final notice before being forcibly removed from the house. 

If the squatter leaves any belongings behind, you'll need to notify them. After 30 days of no response, you can dispose of their things. Assuming everything goes in your favor, remember it's illegal to remove squatters on your own. Avoid changing the locks or turning off the utilities, as these actions could result in a lawsuit.

Can You Sell a House With Squatters?

Yes, you can sell a house with squatters. However, if you're planning to list, removing squatters could take weeks or even months! 

Ultimately, your selling options come down to whether or not you're willing to wait out the squatters. If there's no end in sight, you may want to look for a quicker option - like selling to a local real estate investor. 

1. Clean Up and List Your House

Once you recover your property, you'll probably need to make repairs before selling

Your first step should be checking for any property damage. While a vacant property may already have water damage or foundation issues, squatters tend to make matters worse.  It's no secret that squatter dwellings are often unhygienic or completely vandalized

However, if this isn't the case, nothing is stopping you from cleaning things up and listing the property. 

2. Sell Your House As-Is

Dealing with squatters can be costly. If the situation calls for it, you may be forced to evict squatters. The eviction process is slow and will become more expensive as time goes on. And that's before you factor in repair costs! 

Rather than going through the motions to list the house, you may consider selling your house as-is. Reliant Home Buyers of TN will buy your house in any condition or price range. Not to mention, we'll cover any closing costs.

Get cash for your home quickly - whether you've had squatters or you're selling a vacant property to prevent future issues! 

How It Works

With Reliant Home Buyers of TN, you won't have to wait for inspection reports or bank approval - our buyers can offer you cash for your home while you decide when to close the sale! See how our three-step home buying process works below: 

Call 865-567-6391 or request an offer online. We'll schedule a 15-30 minute walk-through of your property. Don't worry, we're just getting a feel for the house's current condition! If we'd like to buy, we'll make you a WIN-WIN proposal that works for both of us

Keep in mind, there's no obligation to sell to us. While accepting our offer is the quickest way to sell your house, it's up to you whether or not you choose to sell. 

We Buy Houses in the Greater Knoxville Area

Do you need to sell your house fast? Work with Reliant Home Buyers of TN! We are East Tennessee home buyers with nearly two decades of experience

We buy houses in the Greater Knoxville area, whether you're selling from Townsend or Friendsville, TN. Give us a call at 865-567-6391 for more information! 


Serving Knox, Blount, Loudon, Anderson, Roane, Sevier, Union, Jefferson, Hamblen, Cumberland, Monroe, and McMinn Counties.

Reliant Home Buyers Of TN, Real Estate, Knoxville, TN