Adverse possession

Adverse possession is known colloquially as “squatters’ rights”. Adverse possession describes the rights to own a piece of land that can be acquired after the passage of 10 years or more.

In order to claim adverse possession of land, you must be able to prove that:

  • you have been in factual possession of the land for the required period.
  • you have the necessary intention to possess the land, and.
  • your possession is adverse, ie without the title owner’s consent, without force, and without secrecy.

Although the requirements set out above relate to all claims for adverse possession, different rules and time limits apply to the process depending upon whether:

  • the claim relates to unregistered land then the required period is 12 years.
  • the claim relates to registered land then you can apply to acquire title after 10 years of adverse possession.

An application for adverse possession of registered land will trigger a notice from the Land Registry to the registered owner of the land. The owner can object if they feel you do not meet the criteria and serve a counter-notice.

If a counter-notice is served, the application will fail unless one of the following exceptions apply:

  • It can be reasonably argued that it was unfair for the ‘true owner’ to object to the application –
  • You are entitled to be registered as the owner for some other reason
  • The land in question is adjacent to yours and you have mistakenly been under the impression that you own it. The land must have been registered for over a year before the adverse possession application was made.

If the registered owner objects to the application, the matter will be referred to the Land Registry’s dispute resolution regime. At this stage, the normal costs rules of litigation (winner able to recover legal fees) apply.

Adverse Possession is technical, and the above tests are fact specific. Therefore, it is worth seeking legal advice either before making an Application for adverse possession, or if you are the registered owner and wish to object to a Notice received. 

If you would like to know more about adverse possession, then please select ‘make an enquiry’ or call us on 020 8290 0333 to talk to one of our experienced solicitors.


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