What to do if a shop that you built is on land that you do not own?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What to do if a shop that you built is on land that you do not own?

My dad lived with his mom for 25 years and built a shop on the land 12 years ago. His mom just recently passed and now the property is in probate. We found out that the land was signed over to his sister 24 years ago for $5. Does he have sqatter’s right to the shop on this property? They watched him build it and didn’t say anything to him about it at that time.

Asked on January 22, 2019 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

He may have acquired or be able to acquire title to the land on which his shop sits by "adverse possession" (what you call "squatter's rights"). If someone occupies land "openly, notoriously, and continuously" for 10 years--so in way that it's obvious the owners, if they ever looked at their land, that he is occupying it, which means they'd have the opportunity to remove him if they wanted, and he does so without a break for 10 years--and he did not have the owner's explicit permission to be there (since occupying with permission does not let you take the land from the personp[s] giving you permission), you can acquire ownership. The sister received the land 24 years ago; if in that time she never told him that he had her permission to occupy the land, that may let him make a claim. It would be worth it for him to consult with a real estate attorney to explore this in greater depth.

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