Do you have the right to own property which does not belong to you?
7 September 2021 by Emily Wickington
One way in which you may be able to acquire land, when you are not the legal owner of that land, is by adverse possession, which is more commonly referred to as ‘squatter’s rights’. This mechanism can be used to obtain ownership of both unregistered and registered land, as long as the criteria are sufficiently met, and you do not already have rights to use the land granted to you.
In order to claim title and ownership of land by adverse possession you need to prove the following:
- That you have factual possession of the land;
- That you have the necessary intention to possess the land; and
- That the above has been true for at least 12 years prior to the date of the application.
- Factual possession
- This involves having exclusive physical control of the land, demonstrating that you have dealt with the land as an occupying owner might be expected to deal with it, and that no one else has done the same.
- What constitutes a sufficient degree of exclusive physical control of the land depends on the Land Registry; however, some examples include:
- Planting vegetation on the land;
- Using the area to park a vehicle on; and
- General upkeep, such as cutting the grass, trimming the hedges, and weeding.
- Necessary intention to possess
- Your intention to possess must be to the exclusion of all others, this intention is frequently deduced from the acts of possession making up the factual possession but not always.
- In addition, if there is a registered owner, you must also show that you have been on the land and intended to possess it, without the registered owner’s consent to do so.
- As stated, the examples above may be enough to constitute the relevant intention; however, by placing a boundary around the area with a fence, hedge, or wall of some kind, shows an even clearer intention to possess the land to the exclusion of all others.
- 12-year period
- You must be able to provide sufficient evidence for the two elements above that span a minimum of 12 uninterrupted years prior to the date of your Land Registry application.
- Possessory interests can be passed on from previous owners in order to fulfil this requirement; however, you would need the previous owners to provide statements to evidence their adverse possession of the land over the time period which they possessed it.
If you are in possession of either unregistered or registered land and believe you may be able to claim adverse possession of it, please do get in touch with our commercial property team contact Ellen Petersen on 01206 835316 or email [email protected].