Are There Squatters Rights in Wisconsin? Clarifying the Law

Are There Squatters Rights in Wisconsin?

Picture this scenario: You own a piece of property in Wisconsin, but you haven’t been able to visit it regularly. One day, you find someone has taken up residence on your land without your permission. What are your rights as a property owner, and do squatters have any legal claims in Wisconsin? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the topic of squatters rights in Wisconsin and provide clarity on the matter.

Understanding Squatters Rights

Squatters rights, also known as adverse possession, are a complex legal concept that varies from state to state. Adverse possession essentially allows a person who has been using someone else’s property without permission to claim legal ownership under certain circumstances. However, it’s important to note that the laws surrounding adverse possession can be quite stringent.

Squatters Rights in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, squatters rights are governed by specific laws outlined in the Wisconsin Statutes. To claim adverse possession, certain criteria must be met:

  1. Open and Notorious Possession:
    The squatter’s occupation of the property must be open, visible, and known to the property owner. It cannot be a hidden or secretive use of the property.
  2. Actual and Exclusive Possession:
    The squatter must have actual physical control over the property and use it exclusively without sharing it with the property owner or others.
  3. Continuous Possession:
    The occupation must be continuous and uninterrupted for a specific period of time. In Wisconsin, this period is 20 years.
  4. Hostile Possession:
    The possession must be against the rights of the property owner. This means the squatter must not have the owner’s permission to use the property.
  5. Payment of Property Taxes:
    The squatter must also pay property taxes on the land during the period of adverse possession.

Clarifying the Law

It’s important to note that squatter’s rights laws vary from state to state. While some states have shorter timeframes for adverse possession claims, Wisconsin’s 20-year requirement is relatively lengthy. This is in place to protect property owners and discourage opportunistic attempts at claiming ownership.

Wisconsin’s laws are designed to strike a balance between the rights of property owners and the principles of justice. The lengthy timeframe for adverse possession claims ensures that the true owner has ample time to address the situation and assert their rights.

Protecting Your Property

As a property owner in Wisconsin, there are steps you can take to protect your property from potential squatters:

Regularly visit and inspect your property to ensure no unauthorized occupation is taking place.
If you become aware of a squatter on your property, take swift legal action to remove them.
Consider posting “No Trespassing” signs and maintaining clear boundaries to prevent any potential claims of adverse possession.

Squatters Rights in Wisconsin: Dos and Don’ts

Let’s explore the important things to do and not to do to keep in mind when it comes to squatters rights in the state.


Regular Property Checks
Conduct routine visits to your property to spot any unauthorized occupants early on. Regular checks will help you address potential squatter situations promptly.

Consult Legal Expertise
If you suspect or encounter a squatter on your property, seek legal advice immediately. Consulting with a legal expert who understands Wisconsin’s laws can guide you through the proper steps to safeguard your rights.

Document Everything
Maintain thorough documentation of your property ownership, visits, and interactions with potential squatters. This evidence can be invaluable in case legal action is required.

Secure Boundaries
Clearly mark property boundaries and consider posting “No Trespassing” signs. Establishing visible and defined boundaries can deter squatters from attempting adverse possession.

Prompt Legal Action
If you discover unauthorized occupation, take swift legal action. Delays can weaken your case and potentially give squatters an opportunity to meet adverse possession criteria.


Ignoring the Situation
Ignoring a potential squatter situation can lead to adverse possession claims. Address any unauthorized occupation promptly to protect your property rights.

Attempting Self-Help Eviction
While you have the right to remove squatters from your property, avoid using force or intimidation. Always follow proper legal procedures to avoid legal complications.

Assuming Short Occupancy Equals Ownership
Understand that short-term occupation doesn’t automatically grant squatters ownership rights. Wisconsin’s law requires continuous and prolonged possession to establish adverse possession.

Neglecting Property Taxes
If you’re dealing with a potential squatter situation, continue paying property taxes. This demonstrates your ownership and prevents squatters from fulfilling all the criteria for adverse possession.

Overlooking Legal Assistance
Don’t underestimate the complexity of squatters rights laws. Enlist the help of an attorney who specializes in property law to guide you through the process and protect your interests.


Q1: What Are Squatters Rights in Wisconsin?
Squatters rights, also known as adverse possession, allow someone to claim legal ownership of a property they have used without permission. In Wisconsin, specific criteria, including open and notorious possession, continuous occupancy, and hostility to the property owner’s rights, must be met to establish adverse possession.

Q2: Can I Lose My Property Through Adverse Possession?
Yes, under certain circumstances. If a squatter meets all the legal criteria for adverse possession in Wisconsin, they may be able to claim ownership of your property. However, the requirements are stringent, and property owners are well-protected under the law.

Q3: What Should I Do if I Suspect Squatters on My Property?
If you suspect squatters on your property, consult with a legal professional immediately. They can guide you on the appropriate steps to take, such as sending notices or initiating legal action to remove unauthorized occupants.

Q4: Can Squatters Be Evicted in Wisconsin?
Yes, squatters can be evicted in Wisconsin. However, property owners must follow proper legal procedures to ensure a lawful eviction. Attempting self-help eviction, such as using force, can lead to legal consequences.

Q5: Do Squatters Have to Pay Property Taxes in Wisconsin?
Yes, squatters attempting to claim adverse possession in Wisconsin must pay property taxes on the occupied land during the 20-year period. This requirement ensures that potential adverse possessors have a financial stake in the property.

Q6: Can Adverse Possession Apply to Unused Land?
Yes, adverse possession can apply to unused land. If someone openly and continuously occupies your unused land without your permission, they might attempt to claim ownership through adverse possession.

In conclusion, squatters rights, or adverse possession, exist in Wisconsin, but the legal hurdles are substantial. Property owners are well-protected under Wisconsin’s laws, which require strict adherence to specific criteria for adverse possession claims. If you find yourself facing a potential squatter situation, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional who can guide you through the necessary steps to protect your property rights.

Remember, understanding your rights and responsibilities as a property owner or tenant is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the law and ensuring a peaceful coexistence with fellow residents, whether they’re neighbors or potential squatters.

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