After years of building and developing on private property with the owners consent, they now want to kick me off. What can I do?

In 2007 I was invited to participate in building on private property. I was told I
could build anything I wanted as long as I followed the guidelines of the community.
I have never once violated those guidelines. I have worked hard over the past 11
years to build and develop my project and I am even making profit from it. Recently
the private property owner changed the guidelines, and made the type of development I
have done against the rules. They have given me a deadline and are ordering me to
destroy all my work myself, if I want to stay on the property, or they will kick me
off and destroy it all. Everything I have built and done since day one has not only
been in full compliance with the original guidelines, it is also in full compliance
with all local, state and federal laws which have not changed. It is only the
property owner who has changed the guidelines for what can be done on their property.

Now I know that under the theory of Adverse Possession, I would have a strong case,
but in this case, I not only had permission to build and develop from the owner, I
responded to an ad from the owner that invited me to come and build. So, I am not
sure if Adverse Possession applies. Maybe Easement Rights apply here, I don’t know.

Can anyone help me with some legal avenue to not lose all my work? Thanks.

Asked on March 31, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Adverse possession does not apply because you had permission: adverse possession must be "adverse" or hostile to the interests of the property owner, but by definition if you have their permission, you are not acting in a way that is hostile to them--you are acting with their consent.
Easements would not apply either: there are only two ways to get an easement--by agreement (being granted one by a property owner) or by prescription (to allow access over someone's property to "landlocked" real estate which has no access/egress to a public road). But here it does not seem that the owner is granting you an easement voluntarily, and you do not have a separate plot of land, owned by you but completely surrounded by this person's land, so that you need access across his land to your own.
If you had a written agreement or contract with the property owner in which he is getting some benefit from your work and presence (e.g. you are paying him a fee; you had transferred property to him in exchange for rights to build on his land; he is able to charge admissions fees to people to come and see/use/etc. what you have done; etc.), then you could enforce the terms of the contract against him. In this case, if there was such a written agreement and it was still in effect (unexpired), it might provide you recourse.
But without a written, in-effect agreement where the owner derives some quantifiable and provable benefit ("consideration"), you have no enforceable rights. It is his land; he let you use it, and now he can change the terms under which you use, remove or require the removal of any items or structures he does not want, or even remove you entirely from the land. This is the risk you ran if you invested time, effort, and/or money when you had no contract and had been granted no easement.

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