adverse possession

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Adverse Possession

In law, the process by which one lays claim and takes title to a piece of real estate without paying for it, by holding it for a specified period of time. For example, a person living on a property without its owner's knowledge or consent for a certain number of years may become the owner of that property through adverse possession. This concept effectively puts a limit on the number of years after an action in which one can undertake litigation claiming a property.

There are a number of requirements before one can claim adverse possession on real estate. For example, one must openly possess the real estate and make no attempt to hide it. One shows this by living there in good faith, paying property taxes and/or making improvements on the land. See also: Abandonment, Clear Title.
Farlex Financial Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All Rights Reserved

adverse possession

Sometimes called squatter's rights;method of acquiring title to real estate when the true owner has neglected to assert his or her own rights for a specified period of time.

Commonly arises in the context of boundary line disputes.The next most common occurrence is
when there is some technical defect in the title which can't be cured with a corrective deed
because the person who must sign has disappeared, is dead, or refuses to sign. If one actually
occupies property without permission, in an open and notorious manner, that is exclusive and
hostile,and the true owner takes no action to dispossess the claimant,then the actual owner will
be forever barred from asserting any rights to the property. The requirement of hostility does
not mean there must be animosity between the parties, but simply that the adverse possessor
claims ownership of the property, and therefore is legally hostile to any other claimants. The
lack of permission refers to the absence of a lease or other such agreement granting possession
but not necessarily title.The required time period, called the holding period, may vary from 10 to
20 years.

By law,one cannot adversely possess against the government.

Example:  Seth and Rose are next-door neighbors and the best of friends. Seth erects a fence
on what he believes to be their boundary line. For the next 10 years (or 20, depending on the
jurisdiction) he mows the lawn up to the fence. Rose believes the fence marks the boundary
between their two properties, but she is mistaken. Rose then sells her property to Greg, who
orders a survey. The survey reveals that 20 feet of Emma's land is on Seth's side of the fence. In
a lawsuit over the property line, Seth will usually claim that Greg's surveyor is mistaken and
will also claim that even if the survey is correct, Seth has gained title to the 20 feet by virtue of
adverse possession. It was Emma's responsibility to know the true location of her property lines.
If she did not assert her rights during the 10- or 20-year time period, she, and all others coming
after her, lose those rights.

The Complete Real Estate Encyclopedia by Denise L. Evans, JD & O. William Evans, JD. Copyright © 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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