Did you know that anyone could get hold of your property through Adverse Possession? It is a typical statute that says that a person gain ownership to your land if he has been using it for a certain period of time, say 15 or 20 years. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? And it is possible as well. If you have a tenant who has been living on your property and paying rent to it, he can claim the property openly. He may be paying taxes for the property, built a fence around it and you did nothing about it; in such cases adverse possession may happen. Adverse Possession is a legal term for people who have been trespassing on your property, occupying it and gaining legal ownership. If a claim to the land is to be done through Adverse Possession then it must have the following four factors:
- Hostile, meaning occupation of a person’s property and land in a manner that is hostile to the original owner
- Open and notorious, meaning that owner will be put on notice on the fact that the property is being possessed
- Exclusive, as in there would be no debate on who would have possession of property and title once the time has reached
- Actual, the original owner must act within the actual statute of limitations.
The term “hostile” is a bit complicated because most people don’t understand what it really means in relation to adverse possession. Hostile doesn’t mean that the trespasser comes in forcefully and starts living on the property and will threaten the owner when he confronts him. It simply means “occupation of land”. In certain cases, it has so happened that the trespasser did not even know he was living in a place owned by someone else. It could also happen that the trespasser is aware of the fact and still continues to do so. Sometimes the hostile claim could be in a “good faith mistake” as well; where the trespasser starts living in a property that he has bought through an invalid or incorrect deed.
If you want to avoid something like this happening with your property, then place a “no trespassing” sign on your land. This would be an indication that you own the property and nobody else can claim ownership to it. You can call the police if you have proof that somebody is trespassing on your property and you have legal claim to your property. If you need to give permission to someone to use your land for a certain period of time, you must get their written acknowledgement. They might be, at present, using it for parking their vehicle or for reaching their house (using your land as a shortcut to their house).