Real Estate Adverse Possession Law and Legal Definition

Adverse possession is a method of acquiring title to property by open and obvious use and possession under evident claim of right or color of title. Statutes of Limitation prevent the owner from bringing an action to recover the property when the owner has not been in possession of the property for a specified period, and such statutes generally confer a legal title on the person who has entered, occupied, or used the property for the specified period. Once a person acquires an adverse title, it is good even as against those holding a record title or title derived from a record title.

Payment of real property taxes and making improvements (such as paving or fencing) for the statutory period, which varies by state, are evidence of adverse possession but cannot be used by a land grabber with no claim to title other than possession.

A landowner who wishes to interrupt an adverse possession claim may serve a notice on the adverse possessor and record it on the land records. Such service and notice is an interruption of the use and possession and prevents the acquisition of a right by continuing the use and possession thereafter.

State laws on adverse possession vary, but often the notice must be served on the adverse possessor, his agent, or guardian in the same way lawsuit papers are served. Otherwise, a copy of the notice may be required to be affixed to the house on the land in question or to some other conspicuous part of the premises. The notice and the papers indicating the notice was served often must be recorded in the land records of the town where the land is located within a certain time after service. When the adverse possessor is unknown, the notice may also be given by conspicuously posting a copy on the property, serving it on the person to whom the taxes were last assessed, and recording it on the land records.