Written by attorney Andrew Daniel Myers

ADVERSE POSSESION: Loss of Property Ownership To a Trespasser

A person who has no right of ownership to land can become the true owner under "adverse possession". The adverse possessor must use the property they do not own openly, continuously, exclusively, adversely and notoriously for a period of time which varies from state to state. This period of time is known as the adverse possession statute of limitations. If the true owner of land does nothing to challenge the trespasser during this time period, the land can automatically go to the adverse party. Again, this varies state to state and an attorney should be consulted at the first sign of potential problems.

After adverse possession statute of limitations runs, the premises can change ownership. It is an old common law concept brought over to the USA by our ancestors concerning the title to real property. But, it is still valid law. By adverse possession, title to another real estate property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period. The same owner does not have to exercise the acts of adverse possession. If the first adverse possessor moves along, giving its rights to a second, the adverse acts of the first are "tacked" onto the second. Fence lines of other clear boundaries make dangerous adverse possession claims. Claims of uncertain definition in wetlands and woods make less clear adverse possession cases.

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This guide is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.

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