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What is adverse possession?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2023 | Real Estate Law

Adverse possession happens when an individual, not the original property owner, takes possession of it continuously over a certain period of time.

Each state has its adverse possession laws, but the concept applies to residential and commercial properties and is undoubtedly a rightful reason for concern for property owners.

As mentioned, the legal requirements of adverse possession vary state-to-state but generally, for adverse possession to take place:

  • The possession of the property must be hostile, open and notorious, exclusive and continuous.
  • The individual must occupy the property for a specific period, usually years.

In what situations would adverse possession be relevant?

Adverse possession can happen due to many factors, including abandoned properties and trespassing, if the rightful owner does nothing about it.

Abandoned properties

While the concept of adverse possession may seem strange and unfair to many, there are some examples the law believes have merit. For example, if an individual moves into an abandoned home and cares for it while occupying it for an extended period, they can claim ownership of that property through adverse possession.

It is rare, but it does happen.

Preventing adverse possession

To prevent adverse possession, property owners must be alert, maintain and protect their property. They should regularly check to ensure that clear physical boundaries are established and report any trespassers.

Adverse possession is a complex and rare legal concept. While it may be a dream for some because it is a way to gain legal ownership, there are legal requirements that the individual must meet to claim ownership of a property via adverse possession.