Squatters and adverse possession?
Adverse possession is based on the concept that if a legal owner of land fails to evict a squatter from his land within a certain period his rights over that land will be lost.
Establishing Adverse Possession
The Paper owner (legal owner of the land) must have either: given up the rights of the land, and thus the squatter then takes control after his departure or the legal owner is dispossessed, as the squatter takes possession of the land.
In addition to either of the above requirements being satisfied, the person intending to adversely possess the land must show that each of the following requirements was satisfied:
- Factual possession of the land
- An intention to possess
- The possession of the land has been ‘adverse’
Factual possession of the land
In order to establish factual possession over the land, the squatter must show an appropriate degree of physical control over the land. Examples of what constitutes ‘physical control’ are as follows; The erection of fencing ( enclosure usually being the strongest possible evidence of factual possession), Building a property on the land ,Maintaining the boundaries between neighbouring properties/ land (e.g. walls, fencing) this would include any repairs or applications for planning permission to heighten the boundaries for further exclusion to outsiders. ,Shooting wildfowl, Leasing the land to a third party
The intention to possess ( Animus Possidendi)
To satisfy the intention to possess the squatter must show that they have tried ‘to exclude the world at large’ including the paper owner of the land itself. The squatter will even be entitled to the land if he took possession of the land solely believing he was entitled to the, possibly as a tenant or freehold owner.
The possession must be ’Adverse’
For possession of the land to be considered as ‘adverse’ the squatter must have acquired the land in a manner inconsistent with the wishes of the paper owner. If the squatter has had the permission of the legal owner to use his land or if the legal owner of the estate knows of the squatters habitation on his land then the possession is not adverse and then the rules governing adverse possession will not apply.
Adverse Possession and Unregistered Land
The rules governing adverse possession in relation to land that has not been registered with HM Registry are covered by S15 (1) Limitation Act 1980, which states;
- ‘No action shall be brought by any person to recover any land after the expiration of 12 years from that dates on which the rights of action accrued to him’
For more information on:
- Successive squatters
- Stopping Time
- Adverse Possession and Registered Land
- The Land Registration Act 2002