Adverse possession occurs when a person who is not legally entitled to a parcel of land occupies it. If adverse occupation is not challenged for a specific amount of time (referred to as the ‘limitation period’), a squatter can acquire legal ownership of the land without paying compensation.
To acquire title through adverse possession, a squatter must hold the following:
- Factual possession of the land
- A desire to possess the land exclusively. This also includes the legal owner being excluded. However, a person who mistakenly believes they are a tenant may occupy and acquire possession of a property in the same manner as a squatter, without having to demonstrate an intent to exclude the legitimate owner.
- The possession must be ‘adverse’, ie without legal entitlement or without the owner’s consent.
In this article, adverse possession UK, we take a look at the process involved.
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What is adverse possession In the UK?
Adverse possession is a legal concept defined by UK law that refers to the process through which a person trespassing on another’s property might seek title to it. An application may be brought if certain common law and legislative conditions are met and the “adverse possessor” has been in possession of the land for a sufficient period of time (usually 10 or 12 years).
While adverse possession may appear unjust at first glance, it is a necessary legal process that guarantees certainty on the ownership and use of land. It is not considered onerous for proprietors who are not currently occupying their property to check on it and ensure that no unauthorised person has occupied it for a ten or twelve-year period.
The time limits required for adverse possession vary according on whether the land is registered or unregistered.
How does someone make a claim for adverse possession?
The Land Registry Act 2002 (LRA) establishes two distinct regimes for adjudicating claims for adverse possession, each with slightly different rules.
The first category includes claims based on possession prior to October 13, 2003 and/or claims based on unregistered land. The second pertains to registered land and possession claims made after the aforementioned date.
Both regimes employ some of the same tests. You must establish either real possession of the land based on your usage of it or an intent to possess the land. You must either establish sole and exclusive possession of the land or indicate that you intended to possess it. This means you must have treated or intended to treat the land as your own when no one else was doing so, even the current owner.
Adverse possession applications are filed with the Land Registry. All applications must be accompanied by a statutory declaration that contains the following information:
- Is submitted no later than one month prior to the application;
- Establishes adverse possession.
The Land Registry shall notify the registered proprietor of the land, or in the event of unregistered land, any individual who may have an interest in the land based on available information. If the land is registered with the Land Registry, the registered owner will be notified. The proprietor has the option of objecting or serving a counter-notice. If the land is not registered, the Land Registry is unlikely to know the owner’s identity and hence will be unable to serve notice. In these instances, applications are frequently successful merely because the owner is unaware. If the land is not registered, the sole evidence of ownership will most likely be the original documents. When deeds are lost or destroyed, establishing who owns the land or property can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
A period of two years must pass between the rejection of an application and the submission of a new one.
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We have a proven track record of dealing with adverse possession claims. We will guide you through the process and ensure all checks are carried out swiftly and efficiently and we firmly believe that with the right solicitors by your side, the entire process will seem more manageable and far less daunting.
How to Contact Our Property Litigation Solicitors
It is important for you to be well informed about the issues and possible implications of an adverse possession claim. However, expert legal support is crucial in terms of ensuring a positive outcome to your case.
To speak to our Property Litigation solicitors today, simply call us on 0345 901 0445, or click here to make a free enquiry. We are well known across the country and can assist wherever you are based. We also have offices based in Cheshire and London.