Acquire Title by Adverse Possession

In property law, adverse possession is the one way a person can acquire a new title to real property without acquiring the title from someone else. Adverse possession gives a person title to land that she didn’t own before if she does all the following:

  • Actually, physically possesses the property

  • Exclusively possesses the property

  • Openly and notoriously possesses the property, in a way that’s visible and apparent so that the true title owner could and should be aware that she’s possessing it

  • Possesses the property adversely to the owner’s title; that is, she possesses the property as if she owns the property rather than by permission of the true title owner

  • Continuously possesses the property without interruption

  • Possesses the property in these ways throughout the applicable statute of limitations period, which might be from 5 to 20 years

The basic idea of adverse possession is that if these things are true, the possessor has acted as if she’s the owner for a long period of time — so long that the true title owner loses the right to deny that the possessor has title and thus regain possession.

So the adverse possessor doesn’t get the title from the former owner; the former owner simply loses the right to assert her title against the possessor, so the possessor effectively acquires a new title to the property because there’s no one with a superior claim of ownership to interfere with her possession.

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