What is Adverse Possession?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Adverse possession is a method, rooted in common law, of obtaining title to land through use. The common law rules for adverse possession have been codified under both federal and state statutes. A typical statute allows a person to obtain title to land from the actual owner simply by using the land. The use must be open for all to see. An example of openly using land for the purposes of adverse possession would be if your neighbor built a fence on your land with the intention of taking the property, paid your property taxes, and though you knew about it you did nothing. If this continued for a period of time set by state law, your neighbor may be able to claim this property as his/her own. The theory is that by not disputing your neighbor’s use of your property through a lawsuit, you, as the actual owner have abandoned your rights to the property. There are several elements needed for adverse possession to result in clean title:

The length of time required for adverse possession varies – it could be as short as a few years or could run for twenty years or more. Typically public entities must establish a longer period of possession than individuals. Some states have adopted a rule that requires the adverse possessor to pay taxes each year on the land.

  • The possession must be open for all to see. 
  • The possession must be exclusive to him or her (e.g., the fence in the above example, a driveway, road, etc.) 
  • The possession must be hostile to the actual owner of the land. 

Gaining title to land through adverse possession requires strict compliance with the law, and can have dramatic impact upon land ownership rights.

An encroachment could result in title to your property being transferred to an adverse possessor. Under these circumstances, you might have to bring a lawsuit for trespass in order to prevent your neighbor from obtaining title to your land through adverse possession.

If you own land, do not “sleep on your rights.” You could lose ownership of land that is rightfully yours.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption