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Adverse Possession of Land and Squatter's Rights



Adverse Possession - How to Gain Title to Another's Property

Adverse possession is a legal theory used to gain title to another's land through acts of ownership which meet the requirements of state law on adverse possession. Adverse possession meaning comes from a belief land should not sit idle. Claiming property through adverse possession of land may require proof of color of title or use and occupancy of the land in a manner considered open, notorious, hostile, and adverse. Some states' law on adverse possession also requires that improvement to the property or payment or property taxes be made by the person claiming squatter's rights through adverse possession. Each state's law for claiming property through adverse possession of land varies. After winning a claim of adverse possession of registered land, it is necessary to record the title in land ownership records at the local adverse possession land registry.

Squatters rights can also be gained though a prescriptive easement on only a portion of a plot of land. Adverse possession fence cases are common examples, where a prescriptive easement is gained by a neighbor's fence that encroaches on the adjacent property.

The following are some of the requirements that can apply in your state's property law adverse possession statutes:

  • The possession by the person claiming land must be adverse. Statutes define adversely as generally meaning in opposition to the property rights of the titled owner. Squatter's rights can be defeated simply with a letter of permission from the land owner.

  • The possession must be open and notorious. The notorious definition may not be as extreme as it sounds. The statues define notorious as meaning done publicly, so that the adverse possession act is overt and apparent, rather than hidden.

  • A continuous and uninterrupted period of possessing the land is required to meet the minimum time period requirement for state law on adverse possession. The time period can vary from less than 10 to over 20 years. In some states, tacking is allowed, so that more than one possessor's occupancy can be added together to meet the statutory time period requirement.

  • Some states require the land be held under color of title, which means that the person would be the legally titled owner of the land, except that some defect or irregularity exists in the property documents. For example, an unrecorded deed may show color of title.

US Legal Forms has state-specific adverse possession forms for both a person claiming property through squatters rights and/or color of title, as well as forms for protecting land ownership against adverse possession of registered land. Because of the differences in each state's law on adverse possession and the valuable property rights involved, it is essential to use professionally drafted forms that have been reviewed by attorneys to comply with the adverse possession act in the state.