For businesses which own real estate, there are plenty of obvious issues which must be dealt with consistently. From taxes to maintenance, problems can come from just about anywhere. The problem of adverse may possession may not be as common but, when it rears its head, it’s a potentially serious one.
What is adverse possession?
The doctrine of adverse possession has a long history dating back to British common law. Its purpose was to ensure that land was used efficiently. And while there’s an argument to be made as to whether that purpose remains valid today, the doctrine itself is still law. Fundamentally, it states that, if the non-owner of a piece of property uses a portion of the property in question for a sufficient amount of time, the non-owner can claim title to the property they used.
Most commonly, adverse possession cases arise between two pieces of property which share a boundary. If your neighboring property owner begins to use a portion of your property, it could trigger the adverse possession process. However, there are many requirements which must be met and it takes quite a long time before any rights to the property can change hands.
Adverse possession requirements
For starters, the property use must be without the owner’s permission. The trespasser must actually use the property in some way and must do it alone, not working in concert with another. Furthermore, the usage must be what’s known as ‘open and notorious’ – in other words, it can’t be a hidden usage but must be reasonably discoverable by the owner. And finally, the trespasser must use the property continuously for the amount of time required by the state the property is in. In New York, it must be continuous for at least 10 years. In New Jersey, it has to be at least 30 years.
Adverse possession is not something that happens overnight but it does happen. If you find yourself and your property threatened by an adverse possession claim, speak to a professional who is experienced in real estate law.