Do I have any legal right to property I have maintained for 20 years?

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Do I have any legal right to property I have maintained for 20 years?

I bought a house 20 years ago. Half of the driveway is actually on the lot next door. There is also a small parcel of land next to my property ( part of which the driveway sits on ) that I have been maintaining since I moved in. Well the property was sold. do I have any legal rights? I just found out today the property was sold and the owner sent a letter saying he is putting up a fence right down the middle of my driveway with in a week or two.

Asked on February 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may have a claim of ownership of the property based on adverse possession.  Adverse possession requires continuous, hostile, open, notorious and actual use of the property for the statutory period.

Continuous use of the property would be your maintenance of the parcel.  Hostile means in derogation of the true owner's rights.  Open and notorious means the true owner had notice of your use of the property.  Actual means actual use of the property which would be your maintenance of the property.  All of these criteria have to be satisfied for the statutory period.  The statutory period varies from state to state.  Since you have been maintaining the parcel for twenty years, in many states that exceeds the statutory period to establish adverse possession.  If someone else was using the parcel for part of that time, you can add your period of use to the other person's period of use and this is called tacking to determine the total time to satisfy the statutory period for adverse possession.


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