What is adverse possession?


Adverse possession is a common-law operation which relates to land law. Adverse possession permits a party which is enjoying the benefit of land to gain full title to that land even if the party is not the legal owner of the land.


On unregistered land, adverse possession is commonly referred to as squatters’ rights because squatters are the most likely beneficiaries of the rule.

In order to qualify for adverse possession the party claiming adverse possession must show that it has been using or living on the property for 12 years, and that during that time the legal owner both did not give permission (through a license or lease) and did not attempt to reclaim the land.

The court must also be satisfied that the use of the land was unrestricted and that there was no attempt to hide the fact that the land was being used. The law was developed to ensure confidence in one’s ownership of a land.

What about on registered land?

Since the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force, the concept of adverse possession has changed dramatically with regards to registered land.

The requirements for a successful claim in registered land are different in that only ten years of possession are needed, but the party in possession must actively submit an application. (For unregistered land the beneficial title simply transfers to the new owner, and the issue is only addressed if there is a dispute.)

The application is accompanied by several forms and an alert goes to any parties which might have an interest in the property.

If you are currently involved in an adverse possession dispute you will find it useful to seek the advice of a specialist solicitor, as such a meeting is likely to help you understand the exact legal position you are in. Property tends to be valuable, and to risk losing it through adverse possession is a risk not worth taking.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on adverse possession, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local property solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local property solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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