It may seem unfair that someone could claim ownership of some of your property without paying you anything but it happens surprisingly often.
All it takes is for them to use it without your permission and without you challenging them for a set period, usually 10 years.
One recent case involved a couple who owned a strip of land next to their home. They didn’t use it and so weren’t too concerned when a neighbour parked his car there. Nor did they see any problem when the neighbour fitted a chain between
two posts to cordon off the area for his exclusive use.
This went on for 20 years until the couple discovered that the land had been removed from their title plan on the Land Registry’s official records. Instead, it appeared on their neighbour’s registered title.
The couple took
legal action to recover the land but lost their case. The adjudicator held that the neighbour had acquired title by adverse possession.
The neighbour still had a receipt for the chain and posts he had acquired 20 years earlier. This equipment demonstrated that he had intended to use and acquire the land. He had been allowed to use it unchallenged and was therefore entitled to claim ownership.
n another case, a couple took no action when a neighbour started cultivating a yard of land on their side of the boundary line. The couple only complained when the neighbours erected a fence on the land, preventing them from opening their garage door. By then it was too late, the neighbours had used the land unchallenged for more than 12 years and were entitled to keep it.
The concept of adverse possession now comes under the Land Registration Act of 2002. For most cases, this means land can be acquired if it is occupied unchallenged for a period of 10 years.
occupation has to be uninterrupted and it has to be factual – that is, it has to be real in the sense that the person wishing to acquire it is using it on a regular basis. The occupier must also show that he intended to possess the land, as in the case above in which the claimant kept the receipt for the chain and posts used to cordon off his neighbour’s land.
There are other important provisos. For example, the occupation must be without the owner’s consent. The claimant must not be legally entitled to use the land, so that obviously rules out property occupied through a lease or tenancy agreement.
The key factor is whether the owner challenges the possession. If he does and takes steps to prevent it being used then a claim of adverse possession will almost certainly fail. If there is no challenge, the claim could well succeed.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article. < /p>