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Adverse Possession

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Facts about Adverse Possession Law

Property adverse possession is a part of common law that enables a person to gain title to real property, without compensation, to property that may belong to someone else through an adverse possession action.

The law does not intend to enable someone to go out and choose some real estate that they want and claim it as their own without using it; however, if someone possesses a property and uses it openly for all to see without regard to the true owner’s property rights, they can legally gain ownership of the property over time.

The purpose of the law is to provide landowners confidence in their ownership of the property rather than enabling long-lost to heirs or other subjects to claim ownership of the property after a long period.

A statute of limitations protects the landowner that possesses the property from litigation against their title and ownership of the real estate after an unreasonable amount of time.

If someone else had possible ownership in the property and they did not assert their claim in a timely fashion, then they stand the chance of losing their interest of ownership of the property and/or the mineral rights forever, without compensation.

Property ownership can also be taken from an owner that isn’t diligent in protecting their property rights. If someone decides to use the land in opposition of the true owner’s rights for an extended length of time and the owner does nothing about it, they stand the chance of losing ownership through an adverse possession claim.

Examples of Adverse Possession Law in Action

If a person buys a property and lives on it for so long, making land improvements and paying real estate taxes, the law protects them from claims to the property that may come from possible heirs of previous owners or lien holders of the property who failed to stake their claim in a reasonable, timely fashion.

This law gives a property owner a sense of security in their ownership of the property after the statute of limitations has ran out, and also protects them from defects in titles.

Adverse action laws may also apply to situations such as a person building fences or structures that cross their property line. Using the law the court will determine who the structure or fencing, and the land it sits on, belongs to – the landowner or the builder.

Adverse possession law can also be applied to unregistered land.

Without this type of law, everyone would be worried about making land improvements because of the possibility of someone else staking claim on the property that they have provided improvements to.

Possession of the Property Does Have to Proved

In order for a person to gain ownership of a property through adverse possession, they must actually possess the property, use it in an open and notorious fashion as if it were their own and use the property continuously and exclusively in hostility of the original owners rights to the property.

Using the property in a hostile manner, against the rights of the true owner, is possible and after the statute of limitations passes, the possessor can get titled as the owner of the property. There is also good faith view of interpreting such laws as to the laws being intended to correct errors and unknowingly violations of the true property owner’s rights.

Related Laws

Adverse possession is often referred to as squatter’s rights and it is comparable to homesteading laws. The difference in these laws is that squatter’s rights involve hostile takeover and use of the property where homesteading is non-hostile and actually involves rights to ownership upon the completion of certain agreements concerning use of the property.

Specifically to Property Owners that Don’t Continuously Use Their Property

If you own property and you don’t check on it and take care of it, it is possible for someone to occupy it long-term and then claim ownership of the property through adverse possession.

In many jurisdictions the statute of limitations runs between seven and twenty years depending on the circumstances; however, it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Honestly, if you own the property and don’t check on it for seven years or more, you stand the chance of losing it. Sometimes, the payment of property taxes can be considered a form of staking a claim of ownership and may be the best defense in regard to losing claim to a squatter.

To protect your interests, keep an eye on your property, take action when your ownership rights are violated, pay property taxes and know about the statute of limitations that apply to the property. You have to option of evicting possessors legally to document a break in their actual use of the property.

If they are openly using the property continuously throughout the statute of limitations, without your permission and with or without your knowledge they do have the right to claim ownership without compensating you for the transfer of title.

If you run into such a problem, consult with an attorney that specializes in real property and is educated in protecting your legal rights of ownership in case of an adverse possession claim.

Views of Adverse Possession Laws

Some think that it is justified to defend a property owner who actually purchased the property against liens and claims of ownership from heirs after an unreasonable amount of time, but they are opposed to granting ownership to squatters that take possession of the property without regard to the true owner’s rights to the property.

Nevertheless, property adverse possession laws work both ways protecting the interests of the person who actually possesses and uses the property.

Knowledge of adverse possession laws is imperative to property owners who do not use their property regularly. A lot of people own property that is out of state and they are not diligent in checking on it or taking care of it. In such cases, the property can be considered abandoned and if a squatter decides to occupy it and use it, the ownership of the property is in jeopardy.


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