By Christine DiGangi
Closing on a home is supposed to be the happy, celebratory, "I did it!" moment of the often-stressful process of buying a house. Unfortunately for a new homeowner in Portland, Oregon, that's when the problems really started.
Rod Nylund bought a house in the city and hired a contractor to do some work at the recently purchased home, but when the contractor arrived, a family was already living there. It wasn't Nylund or the previous owners -- instead, others had moved into the vacant home, started their own utility services and changed the locks, Oregon station KPTV reports. (See its video report below.) In other words, Nylund had some squatters on his land.
He called the police, who said they couldn't do anything about the people in the home, so Nylund's next step is to contact his attorney and get his home back, he told KPTV.
Do Squatters Have Rights?: As annoying as it is, Nylund has to go through the legal system to get access to a home he rightfully owns. It's pretty much his only option, though it should end in his favor. Squatters' rights exist, but not in the sense that you can simply go into a house, change the locks and declare it yours. There are certain criteria that a squatter has to meet to acquire property through adverse possession, and those requirements vary by state.
In Oregon, someone can acquire property by adverse possession under a few circumstances, one of which requires the person to maintain continuous possession of the property for 10 years. There are a bunch of other conditions that need to be met, but given the 10-year rule, these particular squatters probably won't get very far in this case.
Adverse possession more commonly comes into play over property line disputes, like when someone's fence exceeds the legal boundary of their property, but by the time the rightful owner disputes those several square feet of land, the person with the encroaching fence has claimed it for a long enough period of time to acquire it through adverse action.
While squatters like the ones Nylund's dealing with may not have a good shot of stealing your home, they're not unheard of, and they can be a serious nuisance. There are plenty of things to worry about when buying a home -- your credit standing (you can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com), mortgage rates, finding the right property -- but don't overlook security, especially if you're buying a vacant home. You don't want to be surprised by unwelcome tenants when it's time to move in.