Acquisitive Prescription Law & Legal Definition


Acquisitive prescription is a method of acquiring property by meeting statutory requirements of continuous possession, which vary by state. In order to ripen into ownership, possession must be in the role of an owner, public, peaceful and uninterrupted. Thus, mere possession by legal title, such as by a trustee, a lessee, an agent or a pledgee, not being in the role of an owner, cannot ripen into ownership by acquisitive prescription, unless the legal relation is first expressly repudiated and such repudiation has been communicated to the other party. Possessory acts due to license or by mere tolerance of the owner would likewise be inadequate. Possession, to constitute the foundation of a prescriptive right, must be adverse; if not, such possessory acts, no matter how long, do not start the running of the period of prescription.

For example, in Louisiana, the requisites for acquisitive prescription of ten years are:

  1. possession for ten years;
  2. good faith
  3. just title and
  4. a thing susceptible of acquisition by prescription. La. Civ. Code art. 3475.

The party pleading acquisitive prescription typically has the burden of proving the necessary elements.

The following is an example of a Louisiana statute dealing with acquisitive prescription.

162. Suspension of acquisitive prescription

A cause that suspends the running of the prescription of nonuse applicable to mineral rights has no effect on the accrual of acquisitive prescription in favor of one possessing the surface of the land as owner insofar as his possession may include mineral rights. However, if an obstacle to use of a mineral right is created by an adverse possessor, the accrual of acquisitive prescription as to the right is suspended in the same manner as the prescription of nonuse.