A person who lives on land he does not own may be called a squatter. The term has derogatory implications, but the practice of squatting was once prevalent in regions where land was cheap and plentiful, and landowners were absent.

In some states, laws were passed which allowed squatters the right to purchase the land on which they lived at a discount equal in value to their improvements, or to be compensated for their improvements upon removal. Squatters could not sell their improved land, lacking legal title, but sometimes conveyed their improvements by quitclaim deed.