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Your rights under the law of Adverse Possession

04 April 2019

Alison Turner

adverse possession

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is a legal principle that applies to both residential and commercial land. It allows a person to claim a property right over land owned by another. Common examples of adverse possession include the continuous use of a private road or driveway; agricultural use of empty land or the expansion of garden land onto an otherwise unused parcel of land.

How do I make a claim for adverse possession of registered land?

In order to claim adverse possession of the land, you as the occupier need to be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Actual possession of the land
  • An intention to possess the land (this is different to an intention to own).
  • Possession of the land without the owner’s consent

If the above circumstances have existed for at least 10 years, the occupier can make an application to the Land Registry.  The Land Registry will serve notice of the application on the registered proprietor of the land, and if no objection is made, the occupier will be registered as the new possessory title holder. 

If the current registered proprietor of the land does object to the occupier’s application for adverse possession, then the application will be rejected unless one of the following three exceptions apply:

  • It would be unconscionable not to register the occupier as the registered proprietor of the land
  • The occupier is entitled to be registered as the registered proprietor of the land for some other reason
  • The land abuts the occupier’s own property and the exact demarcation of the boundary between the two plots of land is unclear.

If you believe you have a claim for adverse possession you will need to consider how long you have been in possession of the land.   It would be wise to take some photos of the land and if it is not already enclosed, you should fence or enclose the area and take legal advice. It is important that you do not offer to buy or take a licence over the land.

The process for unregistered land is similar, should you have questions about adverse possession we would firstly look into who owns the land and whether it is registered or not.

How do I make an application to register land I currently use as my own?

  • Prepare photographic evidence of the land in question, clear boundaries demonstrating your possession are helpful for a successful application.
  • If the land is currently open, erect fences or hedges to show your possession.
  • Make sure you do not discuss your intentions with the owners of the land
  • Contact our property team to make your application to register your possessory title at the Land Registry

 How do I stop others taking adverse possession of my land?

  • Post “no trespassing signs” and block all entrances with gates.
  • If you do allow anyone to use your land you should give them written permission in the form of a licence, lease or tenancy agreement signed and dated.
  • If you think your land is being used unlawfully you should report this to the police.
  • Please give our disputes team a call who will discuss your options in relation to removing any trespasser.

 If you would like more information about adverse possession or require any other property advice, please do not hesitate to contact Alison Turner, Head of Commercial Property on 01302965251 or alternatively you can email alison.t@taylorbracewell.co.uk