notorious possession

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Notorious possession is typically a common law requirement of the doctrine of adverse possession.  The requirement establishes that acts of ownership must be observable by others, and not be secret or hidden.  The exact name of the requirement and the standards used to establish what acts of ownership are notorious vary by jurisdiction.  For example:

  • In the 2012 case of In re Rights of Way & Easements Situate in the Twp. of Mt. Pleasant, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania stated that "visible and notorious possession” is characterized “by conduct sufficient to place a reasonable person on notice that his or her land is being held by the claimant as his own.”
  • In the 2013 opinion Trokey v. R.D.P. Development Group, L.L.C., the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals asserted that acts of ownership that may constitute “open and notorious possession” are not limited to those that result in a physical structure such as "a fence, building or other improvements,” but may include “maintaining and improving the property.”  Additionally, conduct that is “conspicuous, widely recognized and commonly known” may establish open and notorious possession.  
  • In the 1992 case of Lake Drive Corp. v. Portner, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina explains that “open and notorious possession” is established when an act of ownership is “such nature as to give notice of … claim of ownership to the whole world.” (emphasis in original)

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]