Have you ever thought about how frequently someone uses your property without permission? Consider, for example, your neighbor who regularly goes over the property line each time she cuts her grass. Or maybe she constructed a shed and a portion of it is technically on your property. Or perhaps her children regularly play in the woods behind your house. While all of these unauthorized uses of your property seem harmless, you could be at risk of losing part of your property to your neighbor through “adverse possession.”
When an individual uses a part of your property as their own, that person may be able to acquire ownership of that property through “adverse possession.” Adverse possession creates an absolute interest in real estate, which is equivalent to title by deed. To achieve adverse possession, one must (1) oust an owner of possession and possess the property in a way that is (2) actual; (3) open/visible; (4) hostile to the rights of the owner; (5) exclusive; (6) made under a claim of right; and (7) made without the consent of the owner; (8) for an uninterrupted, fifteen-year period. Similarly, it is possible for someone to acquire a right-of-way or another easement on your land by the open, visible and apparent adverse use or enjoyment of it for an uninterrupted period of fifteen years.
As a property owner, you may interrupt an adverse possession or other easement by serving written notice on the possessor and recording this notice on the land records. To prevent a neighbor or other individual from encroaching on your property, it is important to inspect your property regularly, secure your property, and have the land surveyed before any barriers or structures are installed near your property line. If you suspect that a neighbor or another individual is using your land as their own, please contact our firm to discuss what your options are to protect your property.
This article was authored by David Rintoul, with contribution from legal intern, Alyssa Ferreone. Alyssa is not yet admitted to practice law.