Adverse possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, as defined by a statute of limitations.
- A single adverse possessor must maintain continuous possession of the property.
- However, the continuity may be maintained between successive adverse possessors if there is privity between them.
- In this context, "hostile" does not mean "unfriendly." Rather, it means that the possession infringes on the rights of the true owner.
- If the true owner consents or gives license to the adverse possessor's use of the property, possession is not hostile and it is not really adverse possession.
- Renters cannot be adverse possessors of the rented property, regardless of how long they possess it.
Open and Notorious
- Possession must be obvious to anyone who bothers to look, so as to put the true owner on notice that a trespasser is in possession.
- One will not succeed with an adverse possession claim if it is secret.
- The adverse possessor is actually in possession of someone else's property.
- The true owner has a cause of action for trespass, which must be pursued within the statute of limitations.
- The adverse possessor does not share control of the property with anyone else (unless in privity with themself).
- They exclude others from possession, as if they were the actual owner.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]