Adverse Possession

Adverse possession laws can be tricky, but LandlordStation.com is here to help.

What is Adverse Possession? Adverse Possession is a method of gaining legal ownership or title of property and/or real estate by continuous possession of the property to the exclusion of the true owner as prescribed by the law of each state.

How to Protect Yourself

Adverse possession laws are defined as the acquisition of title to land through obvious occupancy of the land, while claiming ownership for the period of years set by the law of the state where the property exists. Payment of taxes, improvements on the property, both exterior and interior, can potentially be used as evidence of adverse possession on the part of the tenant. The real estate must be possessed by the tenant actually, openly, notoriously, exclusively, hostilely, under claim of right and uninterrupted for the statutory period required by the state. These terms all have a specific meaning under the law.

LandLordStation.com recommends that any rent-to-own or lease-purchase agreement be handled by an expert in title and acquisition to prevent any adverse possession claims. Hiring a real estate attorney at the beginning of a lease-purchase negotiation can help you avoid becoming one of the adverse possession cases on record.

In the absence of a proper, legally binding, agreement to rent-to-buy or lease-purchase contract or agreement, some adverse possession cases have arisen. If a tenant wants to put up a fence, for example, at his own expense, the landlord should seek legal counsel and obtain a written agreement wherein the tenant acknowledges that the fence will remain as an attachment to the real property and be considered property of the landlord until all the terms of the lease/purchase agreement have been fulfilled. As you can see from this example, a rent-to-own or lease/purchase agreement can be tricky when adverse possession laws are applied.

Personal property can be acquired by adverse possession if the same requirements are met. The Landlord and Tenant Act in each state has provisions for storage and disposal of personal property in the event of an eviction proceeding in a rental lease but those provisions may not apply to personal property in a Lease-Purchase situation. Again, LandLordStation.com recommends that you contact legal counsel to execute a rent-to-own or lease-purchase agreement.

In recent years, adverse possession cases have been recorded wherein people have attempted to move into empty homes and claim adverse possession. Generally it is required that someone live openly in a property for many years and pay real estate taxes during the time they live there in order to have a claim on the property. Adverse possession cases in California, for example, require only a 5-year term for adverse possession. Most states have at least a 10-year requirement and in some states, the term is 20 years or more.

Adverse possession is a complicated, legal doctrine that has different components in every state. As an owner of real estate or a manager of real estate, it is in your best interest to protect title and ownership of the real property under your control.

LandlordStation.com recommends that you consult a real estate attorney if you have any questions about the provisions of the Landlord/Tenant law as it pertains to the real property you own or are managing. We believe you will achieve the best possible results when you screen new tenants and use the resources offered at LandlordStation.com. Landlord Station gives you general information pertaining to the rental industry but does not offer legal advice or legal opinions.

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