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Whether you're wondering what happened to the previous owners or what the next ones will do with the property, there's always an intrigue with abandoned buildings. And the ones with spooky histories or interesting architecture always seem to invite the adventurous to have a look around inside. But is it legal to enter an abandoned building?
It may look like no one will care, but there are quite a few laws covering this kind of urban exploration. Here's a peek inside:
Sure, that building looks abandoned, but chances are someone owns it, and you're trespassing if you go inside. State laws on trespassing may vary, but it generally is defined as entering or using property without the owner's permission. Not only is this a criminal offense, but you could be sued in civil court as well.
Criminal trespass, or entering the property knowing it's illegal, only increases the potential penalties. And this applies to abandoned homes as well. (Just ask Vanilla Ice.) Finally, if you're injured in the abandoned building, you should know that trespassers have fewer rights when it comes to premises liability.
Squatters and Adverse Possession
While trespassers have few, if any, rights while they're trespassing, they could gain some if they trespass long enough. There is a legal concept known as adverse possession whereby a trespasser can acquire legal title to property if they occupy the property for a certain amount of time and meet a few other conditions.
But be warned -- most property owners, even abandoned building owners, don't take too kindly to squatters. If you're facing civil or criminal charges based on entering an abandoned building, you'll probably want the advice of an experienced attorney near you.