Property law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts contains allowances for persons who are not in rightful possession of a piece of property to gain possession, or even title to the property if certain conditions are met. In Rhode Island, people squatting, or staying in an abandoned property without paying rent, utilities, or taxes may hold a certain right of possession to the property, and a Rhode Island eviction may be required to remove them from the property. Rental properties that are vacant and in need of renovations are among the most commonly targeted properties by squatters.
Rhode Island landlords and property owners should be careful to prevent squatters from taking residence in any unoccupied properties under their control. Physically securing any doors and windows to a property can prevent squatters from entry, and the display of no trespassing signs will discourage trespassers from taking residency in an abandoned or currently unused property. If squatters have taken up residence in an abandoned property, and the police have not found them to be committing a criminal trespass, then property owner should post a notice that the squatter(s) are in adverse possession of the property, and pursue a civil eviction of the squatters if they continue to refuse to leave
Under some circumstances, a squatter or other party in unlawful possession of a piece of property may be able to make a legal claim for title to the property. The claim, known as an adverse possession claim, is most commonly used to modify property boundaries between adjacent property owners. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently published a ruling in an adverse possession suit between neighbors.