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Adverse Possession of Property

Adverse possession is the legal term used to describe a method of which a trespasser can acquire the title of a through the use of the land. Started in common law and is now codified under both federal and state statutes, a trespasser can win legal ownership of the land whether they are fully aware of their actions or from an honest misunderstanding of faulty property description. State statutes may differ, but typically, a person can win the title of the land from the existing owner when certain requirements are made.

First, the trespasser should be able to physically use the land in the property just like a typical landowner should – with actions that eventually changed the state of the land – all with the exclusion of the true property owner. Next, the trespasser (or disseisor) is deemed a non-permitted, hostile or adverse party as viewed by court through: (1) objective, where the disseisor used the property without the owner’s permission or contradictory to the true owner’s rights, (2) bad faith or intentional trespass, with the disseisor’s personal intent, and (3) good faith, where the court determined the disseisor’s honest mistake in determining the boundary lines of their property. Third factor, the disseisor should be open and obvious of their intention to assert their claim of the land through visible use of the land even noticeable to any reasonable person.

Fourth factor is the disseisor’s continuous use of the property according to the statute of limitations as established in the state that the property is in. According to  the website of Gagnon, Peacock & Vereeke, P.C., in the state of Texas the time period needed for a disseisor to occupy a part of land is 10 years, but they can file a claim to the property if they have paid for the taxes for 5 consecutive years. If the true owner does take any actions to eject the disseisor, then it constitutes to continuous use of the property. Lastly, the disseisor should have exclusive use of the property.

Strict compliance to the state’s laws and statutes regarding adverse possession should be followed in order to have a significant impact on gaining the title to a land or property. For the true landowners, you might need to file a lawsuit against the disseisor or trespassers so as to avoid having them win the land title. Land property owners should not “sleep on their rights” and take legal action in order to prove the land was not abandoned and open for adverse possession.

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