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Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession

Have you ever found an abandoned property in your neighborhood and wondered if you could just move in? If so, you’re not alone. Many people are curious about adverse possession laws and whether they could apply to them. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what adverse possession is, the requirements for establishing adverse possession, and some of the pros and cons of adverse possession.

What Is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession can be defined as a legal doctrine that gives someone the legal right to claim property already owned by someone else.

Persons should not be too worried because anyone can’t just steal their property. However, someone can have a legal right to own the property if they’re making effective use of good land that has been forgotten or left for several years. 

Courts also have to examine the adverse possession claim and review several factors before handing the property to an individual. 

What Is Adverse Possession

How Can It Be Used To Take Ownership Of A Property?

The use of adverse possession has to be only under certain conditions. For example, individuals can not legally go onto someone’s property and claim if they don’t own it. One example is if person A has a fence that runs on person B’s property for a very long time, person A can claim that’s their land through adverse possession. 

There are also situations where somebody can inhabit a person’s property for years and use that land. Then later down the road, they can claim that land through adverse possession. Note carefully, however, that each state’s laws are different regarding land ownership through adverse possession. 

Requirements For Adverse Possession

What Are The Requirements For Adverse Possession And How Long Must Someone Occupy The Property Before Taking Legal Ownership?

The courts are not giving persons the easy way out who claim adverse possession. Specific requirements must be met before putting out the claim as an adverse possessor. Therefore, before someone tries to claim property, the adverse possessor’s claim must be:

  • Actual – The person on the property has to actively live there and do all the everyday things a homeowner would do.  
  • Hostile – The person on the property has to be there without the property owner’s permission.  
  • Exclusive – The property owner must not be actively living on the property, but the adverse possessor should be the only one there. 
  • Open and notorious – The person on the property should be openly living there in the view of others.
  • Continuous – The continuous use of the property is how an adverse possessor can claim, and it also depends on the number of years they stay at the property. 


Before the adverse possessor occupies a property, specific requirements per state are to be met. For example, in some states, the person residing on the property has to pay property taxes. Here is the timespan of some states that require an adverse possessor to declare adverse possession on a property. 

  • Texas – 5 to 10 years
  • New York – 10 years
  • Minnesota – 15 years
  • Louisiana – 10 to 30 years
  • Iowa – 10 years
  • Illinois – 7 to 20 years
  • Florida – 7 years
  • Montana – 5 years


Take Ownership Of A Property

Related: Laws For Posting No Trespassing Signs

What Are Some Famous Cases Of Adverse Possession In History, and What Happened As a Result?

There are some famous cases in history where individuals claimed adverse possession of someone else’s property. Some of these cases are:

Powell v McFarlane 1977 – Powell was only four months old when his mother passed away. Powell’s father was still alive, but he didn’t have a relationship with him. Therefore, his grandparents, named Mr. and Mrs. Bishop, took him in. After a couple of years, McFarlane bought land for 470 pounds, and soon after, he became the registered owner of the land.

Within a particular time, Mcfarlane went to Germany to stay for 11 years, and within 11 years, he didn’t return to that property. Many years passed after Mcfarlane left the land unoccupied, so Powell went to take possession of the land and cared for it. Furthermore, Powell used the land for grazing his cow.

So he went to his grandmother to write a letter to Mcfarlane to seek permission to graze his cow. No one ever knew if Mcfarlane ever received the letter; there was no response from Mcfarlane. Therefore, Powell continued working and maintaining the land. Later, he brought more animals, connected a few water pipes, and developed the land. He also started his business as a tree surgeon and placed a sign on the land. 

So he went to his grandmother to write a letter to Mcfarlane to seek permission to graze his cow. No one ever knew if Mcfarlane ever received the letter; there was no response from Mcfarlane. Therefore, Powell continued working and maintaining the land. Later, he brought more animals, connected a few water pipes, and developed the land. He also started his business as a tree surgeon and placed a sign on the land. 

After many years of Powell’s hard work on that land. Mcfarlane came back to claim his land, but to Powell, he thought he had the right to claim the land as an adverse possessor. Mcfarlane counterclaimed. Later, Powell’s claim as the possessor of the land failed because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that he owned the land. 


Red House Farms (Thorndon) Ltd v. Catchpole 1977 –  In this case, there was a squatter; he took possession of land next to his for shooting wildfowl because he said the land was unsuitable by all means. After significant consideration, the courts gave the shooter possession of that unsuitable land. 


Reeder v. Woodward – Reeder and his family always owned land in Cardston, Alberta, for many years. Years after, the county did major road works on a highway, and the boundary line ran south of Reeder’s farming land and their neighbor Dennis Vadnais’. Due to the road works, some remnants separated a few acres of Dennis Vadnais’ land alongside Reeder’s property. 

As the highway was completed,  Dennis Vadnais’ piece of land was somehow divided due to the street being built, and a fence surrounded it. Some time passed, and Reeder went to the strip of land to graze cattle and grow hay, knowing that the land did not belong to him. Reeder did this, and Dennis Vadnais’ dismissed it and allowed him to go on. 

Years later, the Woodward family bought Mr. Dennis Vadnais’ property, and they knew that Reeder took possession of the strip of land that was Dennis Vadnais’. 

Later, Woodward made claims stating that’s their land and built a fence. Soon Reeder couldn’t have gone to that strip of land anymore. Reeder then brought it to court and claimed adverse possession. Woodward counterclaimed it because they wanted repossession of the property. 

After many battles in court, the judge gave Reeder adverse possession of the stripe of land because it was exclusive and visible when Woodward purchased the land. 

Some Famous Cases Of Adverse Possession In History

How Can You Protect Yourself From Someone Trying To Claim Your Property Through Adverse Possession?

Protecting your property from someone who can claim adverse possession is important. There are some measures you can take to avoid this from happening. Here is a list of some of the actions you can take to protect your property from an adverse possessor.

  • The landowner can place signs that say “no trespassing” on the land. 
  • If you notice open spaces on the property where someone can claim that portion of your land, fencing out the strip of land would help. 
  • Before you purchase a property, you can always request for a title search to be done.
  • If someone is residing on your property, try renting out the land to that individual to avoid adverse possession.
  • Someone can also file a lawsuit against anyone who doesn’t want to get off their property. 
  • If you notice any trespassers on your property, call law enforcement to have them leave. 


Claim Your Property Through Adverse Possession

Can Adverse Possession Be Used To Take Ownership of Public Land or Government-Owned Properties?

Someone cannot, through adverse possession, own any public land or government-owned property. Once the government land has public use, it is impossible to claim.

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