Adverse Possession is the legal term used to describe an instance where a trespasser comes into a privately-owned property, occupies it for a certain period of time and then gains legal ownership on said property. Read on for more information about Adverse Possession.
Trespassing into a Privately-Owned Property
For obvious reasons, any property owner can keep trespassers from entering any of their properties. Property owners can call the police if the trespasser is threatening the owner, or if the trespasser does not go away even after the owner had told him to. Police officers can do as much as arrest a person who is trespassing into a privately-owned property.
There is trespassing when a person uses even just a part of a privately-owned property without consent from the owner. For instance, without a proper consent from your neighbor, you cannot use his backyard for gardening.
Legal Requirements for an Adverse Possession Claim
The requirements for an Adverse Possession claim vary from one state to another. They are governed primarily by the state statute. The following are the usual elements that have to be fulfilled in order to file for an Adverse Possession claim.
- The trespasser’s occupation on the property must be hostile.
Hostile, in this case, does not mean violent. Here, the occupation is hostile if the owner did not give the trespasser any consent to occupy the said property. Regardless of whether the owner knows about the trespassing or not, without his consent, the claim is still considered hostile.
For example, Mr. A builds a fence which crosses the border of his own land and occupies a few feet of his neighbor’s backyard. Mr. A’s occupation on his neighbor’s land is hostile, even if his neighbor is not aware of the trespassing.
- The occupation should be open and notorious.
The trespasser should not be occupying the property in question secretively. He should not be making efforts to hide himself either. He should be occupying the property in an obvious manner, where he can be seen by the public, even if that public does not include the owner of the property himself.
- The occupation must be exclusive and must satisfy the state’s statutory period.
This means that the occupation is done solely by the trespasser for the statutory period that is mandated by the state. The statutory period varies depending on each state, and can be as short as 3 years or as long as 20 years. This also means that the trespasser’s occupation on the property must have been done alone.
- The occupation should be continuous and should not have faced any interruption.
The trespasser should have been occupying the property continuously. In other words, he cannot occupy the property, leave it for a certain period and then come back to occupy it again.
How to Prevent Adverse Possession
Always keep an eye on your property. If you think that there is a trespasser occupying your property, inform the authorities immediately.
If you are giving someone consent to use your property in any way, do it in writing and ask for an acknowledgement. This way, you will always have proof that you know this situation and you gave them permission to do so.
It is highly recommended that you call a lawyer in case of an Adverse Possession. Ejecting trespassers from your property may require filing for a lawsuit. Hire a lawyer who has experience on Real Estate Law and claim your property back in no time.
Written by The VanMatre Law Firm, one of the top real estate attorneys in Columbia, MO.