What is adverse possession?

by PropertyBlawg on September 25, 2013

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Adverse possession is terminology from property law that no real estate or landowner ever wants to have to get too familiar with. Adverse possession can be underway without a property owner even being aware of it and in extreme cases could result in the loss of the property.

If you aren’t familiar with what adverse possession is, perhaps the colloquial reference will help; squatting. There are tens of thousands of claims made each year to HM Land Registry for adverse possession which is the legal right to have deeds transferred to the name of the ‘squatter’ after a defined time occupying the property.

Countering a claim for adverse possession is an intricate legal procedure best undertaken by experts. For example, Dewar Hogan are adverse possession lawyers who deal with such cases routinely for residential, commercial and agricultural property.

How does it work?

The law that governs adverse possession is the Land Registration Act 2002. Specifically, a person or squatter who does not legally possess a registered property can take ownership once they have occupied it for 10 years. If the land, registered or unregistered, has been occupied prior to the 2002 Act, the 10 year term rises to 12 years.

An applicant needs to meet two legal criteria in order to make a claim for adverse possession of a property; firstly, they need to prove uninterrupted ‘factual’ possession of the land. In short, factual possession means living in a home owned by another party but to all intents and purposes has been abandoned. Secondly, they have to be able to prove that they had ‘intention’ to possess the property during this time.

Intention means what it says on the tin. The claimant needs to prove that they intentionally occupied the property. In other words, occupying the property was not done mistakenly.

Above all, there can be no lease or rental agreement with the property owner.

Legal action

A good adverse possession firm will try to settle out of court through mediation and negotiation. If this eventuality cannot be avoided, it will advise on evidence needed to make or fight a claim. Such a company will also make efforts to keep costs to a minimum by avoiding court proceedings.

If a property owner is uncertain about the status of their asset and concerned that a squatter could be in residence, an expert in adverse possession can offer advice on how to monitor the situation so that it does not have chance to escalate.



Property Law Blogger at PropertyBlawg
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