The Real Estate Encyclopedia
What Is Adverse Possession?
Category - Home Selling Questions - Selling Legal & Closing FAQ's

Adverse possession occurs when title to real property owned by someone else is acquired through open, notorious, hostile and continuous possession for a statutory period.  The burden to prove title is on the possessor, who must show that four conditions were met:  1) He or she has been in possession under a claim of right.  2)  He or she was in actual, open and notorious possession of the premises so as to constitute reasonable notice to the record owner.  3)  Possession was both exclusive and hostile to the title of the owner (that is, without the owner’s permission and evidencing an intention to maintain the claim of ownership against all who may contest it.  4) Possession was uninterrupted and continuous for at least the prescriptive period stipulated by state law. 


The main purpose of adverse possession statutes is to ensure the fullest and most productive use of privately owned land.  If a landowner makes no attempt to use his or her real estate for a long period of time, it is deemed better for someone who intends to make good use of the property to take title. 


The party who claims title to property by adverse possession does not have readily marketable title until he or she obtains and records a judicial decree “quieting” the title or obtains a quitclaim deed from the ousted owner.  Once this is done, however, the title has equal standing with that of an owner who acquired title by way of a deed. 

Most states do not require the claimant to have paid taxes on the property for any certain period (although in some states a claimant’s paying taxes may shorten the prescriptive period. 

Home Selling Questions - Selling Legal & Closing FAQ's
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