The law on adverse possession


Adverse possession is a legal concept that allows a trespasser – sometimes a stranger but more often a neighbor – to gain legal title over the land of a property owner. The concept dates back to early Britain. More recently, the law’s function is usually to achieve a fair result when one owner has neglected or forgotten about a piece of property while another has been using or caring for it for so long that to make him or her leave would create hardship.


Chrissy: What is the law if the listener has been maintaining a strip of joining property for seven years because the neighbor won't claim it as theirs to maintain?

Attorney Tom Olsen: Okay. Let's just say that you've got a neighbor and let's just say that your neighbor installs a fence and let's just say that your neighbor installs that fence 10 feet onto your neighbor's property. Meaning now 10 feet of your neighbor's property is on your side of the fence. Let's just say that you maintain that property for seven years, 10 years, will that property ever become yours? The answer is no. You know what? Every time I get asked this question, I always forget the name of the term. Oh, adverse possession. Okay, thank you. All right.

Adverse possession is a legal process where somebody else's property may become your property, but the big, big but here is that it requires that you have paid the real estate taxes on that property. Even though your neighbor's property has been on your side of the fence for 10 years, even though you've maintained it, mowed it, planted flowers and trees and everything else on it, it will never become yours because you have never paid the real estate taxes on that property. Period. Nice and simple.

Chrissy: You have to do that in addition to what's called 'open and notorious' that you are openly, like you said, mowing. How is it going to happen where you paid taxes on it?

Attorney Tom Olsen: This text who's talking about, "I've maintained if for seven years," well, they're referring to adverse possession. Adverse possession requires that you have openly and notoriously used it for seven years and paid the real estate taxes. That's not going to happen in city limits.