Adverse possession, often referred to as squatter’s rights, is a legal principle that includes 5 requirements that allow a person to claim ownership of a property if they have occupied it for a certain period of time without the true owner’s permission.
Though laws can vary by jurisdiction, there are generally five key requirements that must be fulfilled for a claim of adverse possession to be successful. This post will detail the five aspects required for successful adverse possession claims.
Understanding adverse possession and property rights is also important for property owners who want to prevent adverse possession claims and protect their property ownership.
Requirement #1: Hostile Claim
Let’s start with the first requirement, which is that the claimant’s possession of the property must be hostile.
In this context, hostile does not mean that the adverse possessor must have a contentious relationship with the true property owner or that there should be any animosity involved. Rather, it refers to the nature of the possession itself.
Hostile in this legal context means that the possessor’s use of the property is in direct conflict with the true owner’s rights.
Essentially, the person claiming adverse possession is using the land as if they were the rightful owner, without any permission or any legal right to do so. It indicates a clear and deliberate infringement on the owner’s rights, which is a key element in any adverse possession claim.
This could manifest in various ways, such as making improvements on the land, erecting structures, or conducting activities typical of an owner. These actions demonstrate a clear intention to possess and control the land, which is necessary for a hostile claim.
Requirement #2: Actual Possession
The second requirement is actual possession. This simply means that the claimant must physically occupy the property. While this may seem straightforward, actual possession can take many forms beyond just living on the property.
For example, it could include using the land for farming, storing personal belongings, or even running a business. The key point here is that the claimant is treating the property as their own, and their use is obvious to anyone who looks.
It is not enough to merely assert a claim to the land; the claimant must demonstrate actual, tangible use of the property.
Furthermore, the claimant must show consistent use of the land over time. Occasional or sporadic use typically will not meet the requirement of actual possession.
Requirement #3: Open and Notorious
The third requirement is that the claimant’s possession must be open and notorious. This means that the claimant’s use of the property is apparent and visible, not hidden or secretive. It should be clear to the true owner, neighbors, or anyone passing by that the claimant is in possession of the property.
The principle behind this requirement is simple: the true owner must have a reasonable opportunity to learn about the adverse possession and take action to reclaim their property. If the adverse possession is hidden or secret, then the true owner would not have this opportunity.
Therefore, the claimant’s use of the land must be conducted in such a way that it would be apparent to a reasonable owner. This could involve building structures, planting crops, or any other use that makes the possession obvious.
Requirement #4: Exclusive and Continuous
The fourth requirement is that the claimant’s possession must be exclusive and continuous for the statutory period.
In terms of exclusivity, the claimant must be the only one possessing the land. They cannot share possession with others, although they can grant permissions as an owner would. This requirement ensures that the claimant is acting as a true owner, not merely a co-user or tenant.
As for continuity, continuous possession must be uninterrupted for the entire statutory period. This period varies by jurisdiction but is often between five and twenty years.
It’s important to note that this does not mean the claimant must be physically present on the land every single day. However, their use of the land must be consistent with how a true owner would use it.
Requirement #5: Without the True Owner’s Permission
The final requirement is that the claimant’s possession must be without the true owner’s permission. If the owner has allowed the claimant to use the property, then the claimant cannot claim adverse possession. This is because the use is no longer ‘hostile’ as defined above.
Essentially, if the true owner has given permission, then the claimant’s possession is not infringing on the rights of the person with legal ownership.
This could occur if the owner has leased the land to the claimant or otherwise granted them permission to use it. In these cases, the claimant is not in adverse possession; they are merely exercising the rights granted to them by the owner.
Adverse possession is a complex legal principle that allows someone to gain ownership of a property they have been using without the true owner’s permission.
The five requirements—hostile claim, actual possession, open and notorious, exclusive and continuous, and without the true owner’s permission—are generally necessary for a successful claim of adverse possession.
However, adverse possession laws can vary significantly by location, so any person seeking adverse possession or property owners facing a claim of adverse possession should consult with a qualified legal professional.