How do I obtain ownership of abandoned property?

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How do I obtain ownership of abandoned property?

About 7 years ago my neighbor’s house was sold and a new subdivision was built. They put a fence up across half the distance from the corner of my lot to the street – the rest is subdivision land that the HOA maintains up to certain point. They have put up trees and other landscaping and do not maintain beyond that. This has created a triangle of land that seems to belong to no one and is not maintained by anyone. I have been told I can put up a fence and if nothing is said for a period of 2years it is mine. True? If not how do I go about taking possession of this empty non-maintained area?

Asked on July 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, it's neither that easy nor that quick. What you are describing is taking land by adverse possession; but in GA, for adverse possession, 1) you need to have a legitimate claim to the land or belief that it is yours; 2) you need to hold it for seven years; and 3) you need to hold it publically or obviously as yours, so the "real" owner has a chance to see that you are trying to claim it and can object or take action. In short, it is very difficult to claim land by adverse possession; it may be easier to find out who does own it (the developer?) and, if there's not much that could be done with it, try to buy it for a good price.

And by the way--not being maintained by someone is not the same as not being owned by someone. A lack of care or maintenance does not abrogate someone's ownership rights, except and only to the extent described above.


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