After 23 years, what rights doI have to property that I thought was mine?

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After 23 years, what rights doI have to property that I thought was mine?

We have lived on our property for 23 years and built a shed 15 years ago on an area our neighbor and I mistook for the property line. During the whole 23 years I have always maintained the area in question. My neighbor passed away and when the new owners moved in they erected a fence on the previous owners line.That fence remained for five years.They have since had a survey done and it shows the line to be 4 feet over on what I thought was our line. Do I have any rights on property since I have always maintained it?

Asked on August 6, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you probably do not have any rights. Maintaining property, even mistakenly, does not confer rights to it. There is a thing called "adverse possession," wherein if someone "openly and adversely" claims land *against the rights* of the actual owner for a sufficient period of time, he may gain ownership. However, it doesn't help you if you thought it was your land--only if you were actually trying to take it from someone else, and they didn't take action to stop you. It would be worthwhile consulting with a real estate attorney who can evaluate your situation in detail, but this is the sort of sitation, unfortunately, where there often is no recourse for the mistaken property owner.


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