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What Is Adverse Possession of Land?

The general rule is that a legal owner has the right to regain possession of their land from unauthorised occupiers. However, adverse possession, sometimes described as “squatters rights”, is a legal principle whereby a person who does not have legal title to a piece of land can acquire legal ownership.

To establish a claim for adverse possession, certain conditions must be met. Adverse possession requires factual possession of the land, with the necessary intention to possess and without the owner’s consent.

Prior to the coming into force of the Land Registration Act 2002, a squatter could acquire the right to be registered as proprietor of land if they had been in adverse possession of the land for a minimum of 12 years. This is still the case for unregistered land but in 2003, the Land Registration Act 2002 introduced a completely new regime for registered land. The squatter must now show that they have been in adverse possession for at least 10 years before they can apply to be registered as owner but the landowner will be notified of any application for adverse possession and given the opportunity to oppose. It now makes it more likely that a landowner will be able to prevent an application for adverse possession of their land being completed.

The concept of adverse possession can apply to small pieces of land on the boundary between two properties or involve bigger plots of land.

In 2023, we represented successful Claimants at a trial in the Central London County Court in relation to a dispute over the location of the boundary and ownership of a strip of land with their neighbour. At trial, the Claimants were able to show that the boundary between the properties had been in the same location since the 1960s and that they had been in possession of the disputed strip throughout that period. They were entitled to rely upon that adverse possession and add the disputed strip to their title. The Judge made a declaration that the claimants are entitled to be registered as proprietors of the strip of land and directed the Chief Land Registrar to alter the title. The Judge also made a substantial costs order against their neighbour.

If you require any advice in respect of adverse possession or any other property right, please do not hesitate to contact our Property Disputes experts on 0330 822 3451 or request a callback online We would be happy to assist.

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