top of page
Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is a legal doctrine designed to protect a person who, in good faith and without permission, is occupying a piece of land that another person owns. Under this rule, a person can claim legal ownership of the land they are entertaining, even if the legal title of the land belongs to someone else. To qualify, the occupier must meet four criteria:

  • They must hold exclusive possession of the land.

  • They must occupy the ground for a certain period of time - which varies by jurisdiction - without interruption.

  • They must demonstrate hostile and open use of the land.

  • They must show that they have paid all relevant taxes on the land for the time they occupy it.

If these criteria are met, the occupier may claim legal ownership of the land through the adverse possession doctrine. It's a complex legal principle that must be navigated carefully, as a successful claim can adversely affect the title of the previous owner's property.

Adverse possession is a legal principle allowing a person to gain title to the property if they occupy it for a certain period. To be successful in an adverse possession claim, the possessor must meet specific criteria, such as not infringing on the rights and interests of the valid owner and proving that they have been in continuous possession of the property. The term' adverse possession' is sometimes called squatter's rights. However, this is an informal description and does not have legal standing. To gain title to the property due to adverse possession, the possessor must have continued their land occupation for years, as set out by their particular state or jurisdiction's law. During the possession period, the possessor must pay any relevant taxes and take care of the premises.

Adverse possession is one of current real estate law's most controversial legal doctrines. It allows a trespasser – someone who has not been granted permission by the lawful owner to occupy a piece of property – to begin claiming title and ownership of that land after a certain period. This time period varies depending on the jurisdiction and the facts of the case, but in many places, it is commonly a period of seven to twenty years. The rules for adverse possession vary by state, but the general idea is that if someone occupies property owned by another person without their permission for a certain number of years (typically between 5-20 years), they can claim ownership of the property. Adverse possession is often used in cases where there is confusion or dispute over property boundaries or when someone mistakenly believes that a piece of land is theirs and uses it for an extended period.

For adverse possession to be successful, several criteria must be met, including an open and notorious occupancy, actual and continuous possession, and color of title. Open and notorious occupancy means that an individual must be in actual, physical possession of the land and that this possession is generally known or discoverable by the legal owner. Actual and continuous possession must be shown, meaning possession is long-term, consistent, and without interruption. Finally, the color of title is the possession of, or belief in, the ownership of the land based on some documentation, such as an old deed or a forged document. For example, imagine a homeowner has lived in a house for several years but one day discovers that their neighbor's fence was built several feet onto their property. The homeowner initially demands that the neighbor remove the wall, but the neighbor claims that they have been using the extra space for gardening and storage for more than ten years, and therefore, the property now belongs to them through adverse possession. In this situation, the neighbor may have a valid claim to the disputed portion of the property. Additionally, the possessor must clearly show the actual owner that the land is being treated as if it is their own. If all of these requirements are met, then the possessor will be able to receive title to the property as long as the valid owner does not take any legal action to stop the adverse possession claim. As a result of this legal principle, adverse possession helps to ensure that property is no longer left unused or unclaimed.

Adverse possession is a common law doctrine used to establish legal title to a property when possession has been held "adversely" to the actual owner for a certain period. To gain title through adverse possession, there must be accurate, visible, exclusive possession and control of the property, which is hostile to the valid owner's title. The possession must be for the statutory period. This time can range from 3-20 years, depending on the state. Additionally, the possession must be continuous, open, notorious, peaceable, and exclusive. If these elements are satisfied, then the claimant to the property may have a valid claim to the title. Adverse possession is used to establish a proper identification in a property when the owner may have failed to assert their rights to the property and when the adverse possessor has invested in the property with an understanding of their rights and responsibilities. This doctrine is taken very seriously by courts as it provides an unequivocal solution in cases where there is actual occupancy or usage of the land or property for an extended time. In this case, the adverse possessor of the land may ultimately have the right to the property over the actual owner if all the requirements for adverse possession are met.

Adverse possession is an important legal doctrine that serves a purpose. It incentivizes individuals to settle on and improve abandoned or neglected pieces of land. By vacating ownership and making it legally accessible to new occupants, this doctrine helps promote property development throughout the county. But as beneficial as this is to society, it can be damaging to the legal owners of the land, especially if they have been absent for a period of time without knowledge of the claim. That is why it is important for individuals to either take action or monitor their property to avoid any possible adverse possession claims should they resurface in the future. Overall, adverse possession can be a complex and contentious issue, as it involves the transfer of ownership without the legal owner's consent. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice and understand the applicable laws in your state if you are involved in an adverse possession dispute.

bottom of page