Adverse Possession

Adverse possession means that someone occupies or uses land belonging to someone else without permission. When this adverse possession has been going on for a long period of time, usually 10-12 years, then in certain circumstances, the land could legally become theirs.

Often, cases of adverse possession occur in larger rural areas, where the perception of boundaries might not be entirely accurate. This can lead to people using land that they think is theirs, but in reality it belongs to someone else. After using this land for a number of years, the title may be transferred to the person who was using someone else’s land, and they will end up owning the land through virtue of adverse possession.

Adverse PossessionSome examples of where ‘squatter’s rights’ have been awarded, include a case where a farmer had been using land to graze his cattle for more than 30 years, but the land actually belonged to housing developers, who found themselves having to buy the land back after the farmer was awarded ‘squatter’s rights’. There have also been cases where next door neighbours were under the impression that their garden boundaries were marked correctly, but later discovered that one of them did in fact own more of the land, but because the neighbour had been using part of it as his garden for a number of years, then the land could belong to him.

The circumstances and motives for adverse possession can vary, and can sometimes even be deliberate. A party might decide to settle on an area of land with the intention of staying there for 12 years, if they can, in order to become the legal owner of that land. However, if you are a land and property owner, whether that is agricultural land, commercial space, a home, or an office, you would not want to see any of your property taken by another party, no matter what the motive or circumstances behind it.

Unfortunately, the law surrounding adverse possession is complicated, and the case can be subject to a different set of rules depending on whether the land is registered or unregistered, or if the trespasser accumulated a certain number of years of adverse possession before or after the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force.

In order to claim the land under adverse possession, certain elements and criteria must be met by the person claiming ownership. They must show that their possession is:

  • Actual
  • Obvious to the local public
  • Exclusive

All these things must be in place before someone can claim ownership of your land, but it is not wise to delay in opposing an application under adverse possession.

Sam Hawking & Co have years of experience dealing with a variety of adverse possession cases, and will be able to guide you towards the quickest and easiest solution when you are facing a claim of adverse possession. We know that a lot of people may not even be aware of adverse possession until they are facing a loss of their property, but be assured that we will be here to guide you through to a satisfactory solution.