When you own property, it’s not always sunshine and roses. Whether the property is improved or unimproved or includes a home or business, there are always issues that must be dealt with. Adverse possession is not something that comes up often but, when it does, it’s ripe for frustration and litigation.
What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession is a doctrine that has been around for a long time. Historically, the purpose of the doctrine was to ensure that land was used efficiently. To accomplish this, a squatter or trespasser could gain title to land by using it, even though it was owned by another person or entity.
Although that concept may seem foreign, it is still the rule of law. It’s codified in New York Real Property Actions & Proceedings, Section 501. However, gaining title through adverse possession is not easy, as the requirements are stringent.
Adverse possession requirements
Most often, adverse possession comes up as a boundary dispute, when one property owner infringes upon the property of another. But the infringement must be open and notorious, not hidden and undetectable by the infringed owner. The trespass must occur without the property owner’s permission, violating the owner’s claim of right.
However the trespasser is using the property, the usage must be exclusive, rather than shared in some way with the owner. And the trespass must be continuous for a full 10 years. Anything less than that, or if the trespass is intermittent, and the claim of adverse possession will not vest.
The best defense for a property owner against adverse possession claims is to keep a clear eye on their property so that potential issues are dealt with long before litigation is necessary. If you need help dealing with encroachment or are facing an adverse possession claim, speak to an attorney who is experienced in New York Real Estate Law.