Continued Use Law and Legal Definition

What is "continuous use"? Usually the term continuous use is used in real estate to mean uninterrupted and open use of the land. In certain situations, the continuous use of land can create rights over real estate that were not there to begin with.

One situation where continuous use of real estate can create property rights is adverse possession. Adverse possession is a means by which someone may acquire title to the land of another through certain acts over a defined period of time. Such acts must continue uninterrupted for the time period defined by state laws, which vary by state. In general, the acts of possession must be overt, hostile, exclusive, uninterrupted, and under a claim of right, etc., so as to give the owner or others claiming entitlement to possession notice and an opportunity to counter the adverse possession.

Another situation where continuous use of real estate can create property rights is a prescriptive easement. A prescriptive easement is an easement upon another's real estate acquired by continued use without permission of the owner for a legally defined period. State law, which varies by state, defines the time period required to acquire a prescriptive easement. Prescriptive easements are harder to be noticed of, since they do not show up on title reports, and the exact location and/or use of the easement is not always clear and occasionally moves by practice or erosion.

In Maine, for example, in order to establish a prescriptive easement, those claiming such easement must establish among other things continuous use for at least twenty years. The ordinary rule is that, where there has been an unmolested, open, and continuous use of a way for twenty years or more, with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner of the servient estate, the use will be presumed to have been adverse and under a claim of right, and sufficient to create a title by prescription, unless contradicted or explained. 14 M.R.S. § 812 says that no person, class of persons or the public shall acquire a right-of-way or other easement through, in, upon or over the land of another by the adverse use and enjoyment thereof, unless it is continued uninterruptedly for 20 years.