The answer to that question is “yes”. However it is a lot more complicated than moving in and staying there.
With the massive number of houses in foreclosure, many of them are sitting empty for long periods. There have been cases where people have gone into these homes and stayed in them for a few months and when the bank comes to kick them out, they claim to ve “in adverse possession” of the home.
In other words, they claim to be the owner because they set up residency there and nobody told them to get out, so now they own the place. Unfortunately it is not quite that simple.
Adverse possession laws state that the squatter must live there uninterrupted for seven years. In addition, he must be living there either without the owner’s permission and it be so obvious that the owner should have known he was there. So hiding out there is not good enough.
Also, the use must be in adverse to the owner’s use and be so that the owner can take an action to stop it, such as an eviction or trespass warrant.
So basically, you would have to move in, get the utilities switched into your name, pay the property taxes and stay there in plain sight of all the neighbors for seven consecutive years to even have a good case.
Even if you are able to meet all those requirements, if there is any doubt as to the squatter’s claim that the owner knew he was there and did nothing, the court must award the property to the owner. The “burden of proof” in this case is on the squatter.
The food news is, if you do meet all those requirements, the police are powerless to evict you. But id you just show up, change the locks on the door and move in without paying taxes and switching the utilities over, you are basically a trespasser and could face criminal charges.
So if you see an abandoned house, do yourself a favor and talk to an attorney before you move into the home.