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Claiming Property Based on Adverse Possession


When it comes to important real estate markets such as California, adverse possession is not a new phenomenon. Major cities like Los Angeles have seen numerous cases of adverse possession. As a California resident, it’s important to understand the nuances behind this type of ownership. State laws decree that trespassers can take possession of certain portions of your property under the principle of ‘adverse possession’.

The law states that trespassers may assume ownership of land if the real owner is unsuccessful in putting up an objection within a stipulated period of time. Such ownership is legalized if the trespasser pays property taxes on time for the said piece of land. As a property owner, it’s imperative to ensure that no one is able to make an unlawful entry into your property or estate. On the other hand, it’s equally possible that you may need to claim adverse possession of a certain piece of land. For these reasons, it’s important to gain a proper understanding of California’s adverse possession laws.

How Adverse Possession Laws Work:

The concept of adverse possession originated in old Britain. The principle still prevails in the US and numerous other countries with a view to ensuring that a fair decision can be made when an owner neglects or forgets about a property for a long period of time.
Acquiring property through adverse possession in California isn’t easy under the existing state laws. Establishing proof of ownership is usually a major hurdle for any trespasser. As the rightful owner, you have every right to hold on to your property unless the adverse squatter can prove in a court of law that he or she deserves to get ownership of the property or a certain part of it.

At the same time, it is important not to confuse adverse possession with other analogous laws. For instance, easements such as using a common driveway belonging to a neighbor should not be confused with adverse possession. Easement refers to shared property rights of people staying close together, but doesn’t imply shift in title as in the case of adverse possession.

Adverse Possession in California:

Like most states in the US, adverse possession rights in California are determined by the nature in which an intruder comes to possess the property and the duration of that possession.
There are four important factors that are taken into account while legitimizing an adverse possession claim:

a) Hostile Claim:

Under this provision, the adverse possessor must:
• Commit an honest blunder (like relying on a wrong deed),
• Simply occupy the property (with or without the knowledge that it is a private property),or
• Be conscious of his/her trespassing.

b) Actual Possession:

This implies that the trespasser should currently be living on the property and taking care of it as his or her own.

c) Open and Notorious Possession:
The reference here is to an act of intruding that cannot be a secret.

d) Exclusive and Continuous Possession:

The trespasser does not share land possession with others, and must possess the property for an uninterrupted period of time.

Depending on your perspective, the adverse possession doctrine could be either fair or unjust. Fortunately for property owners, gaining property through adverse possession is not an easy task. A proper understanding of the law is certain to help your cause. An experienced real estate attorney could help you understand the nuances of the law and support you during litigation.