Claim For Adverse Possession

Claim For Adverse Possession

Claim For Adverse PossessionAdverse possession is a legal principle that grants ownership of land to someone who has not purchased the land but has possessed it for long enough to oust the legal owner. Adverse possession is sometimes referred to as ‘squatters’ rights’. Examples of instances in which a claim for adverse possession may be brought are in respect of vacant properties, derelict land and boundary disputes.

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It may seem unfair to deny a legal owner of their land in this manner, but adverse possession can prevent buildings and land from becoming a nuisance to neighbours through the neglect of their owner and provide certainty as to land ownership. It ensures that land is used efficiently; if not by the legal owner, then by someone else. The length of time for which land needs to have been occupied before an adverse possession claim can be brought is considerable – 10 or 12 years, depending on the circumstances – and a landowner can step in to evict a trespasser at any time before the expiration of these time limits. They can also object to, and defend, any claim for adverse possession.

Criteria For Claims For Adverse Possession Claim

There are strict legal criteria that need to be met to bring an adverse possession claim. The criteria differ depending on whether the land in question is registered or unregistered and the date on which the person claiming ownership took possession of it.

Broadly speaking, to claim adverse possession, you need to show that you have ‘factual possession’ of the land along with an intention to possess it. These criteria require that you have dealt with the land as an ‘owner occupier’ to the exclusion of others, including the legal owner. You need to have used and maintained the land in the way an owner would; you may, for example, have built on it, harvested it, renovated it or secured it by installing padlocked gates.

The possession must have been without the owner’s consent. If you paid rent, asked the legal owner’s permission to use the land or sought to purchase it from them, an adverse possession claim may fail.

If the land over which ownership is sought is registered at the Land Registry, you need to have been in exclusive possession of it for 10 years before you can make an adverse possession claim. If the land is unregistered, the possession time required is extended to 12 years. In some circumstances, you may be able to rely on the time accrued by an earlier occupier from whom you inherited the land through purchase or under a will.

How To Claim Adverse Possession

Applications for adverse possession in respect of both registered and unregistered land are made to the Land Registry. An application must include supporting evidence detailing the basis upon which adverse possession is sought. This evidence must address the legal requirements of adverse possession and demonstrate how the applicant fulfils those requirements. It is advisable to seek help from a solicitor with experience in adverse possession claims to ensure this evidence is as clear and watertight as possible.

If the land in question is registered, the Land Registry will notify the registered owner of the application. If the registered owner raises no objections, the Land Registry will proceed to register the applicant as the legal owner of the land in place of the current owner. If the registered owner opposes the application then, unless the Land Registry considers the opposition to be groundless, the parties will be given time to reach an agreement if both sides are amenable. If they are not, or if it becomes apparent that no agreement is going to be reached, the matter will be referred to the Tribunal.

Registered landowners need to be aware that if a claim for adverse possession is rejected, a further claim may be brought if they take no action to remove the applicant from the land within 2 years. These later claims have a higher chance of success.

If the land is unregistered, the Land Registry will give notice of the application to anyone who has an interest in the land. Since the land is unregistered, it is often difficult to identify anyone to whom notice should be given. An application will then succeed with the applicant being granted possession of the land. If an interested party is identified and subsequently opposes the application, the process will proceed in the same way as with registered land.

What Do Adverse Possession Solicitors Do?

Our Norwich-based adverse possession solicitors have extensive experience in acting for both those wishing to claim adverse possession and those defending adverse possession claims. Examples of the types of tasks they may undertake on your behalf include –

  • Carrying out land registry searches to establish whether the land in question is registered;
  • Compiling evidence to support an adverse possession application, or to defeat such an application;
  • Preparing and filing all relevant documentation with the Land Registry;
  • Managing the matter through to resolution. Our expert adverse possession solicitors will always strive to settle disputes without the involvement of the Tribunal; this may be through correspondence and discussion with the other side or by using alternative dispute resolution methods such as Mediation. If the involvement of the Tribunal is unavoidable, our adverse possession solicitors will guide you through the process and work hard to achieve a favourable outcome for you.

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