What is Adverse Possession?
The law allows a person (“squatter”) to claim title to land regardless of ownership if he can prove that he has had unobstructed possession of the land, with the intention to possess the land, without the true owner’s permission. However, there are certain conditions which need to be satisfied. The squatter needs to show that he had an intention to possess the land in his own name and on his own behalf with the sole objective of excluding others (including the world at large and the actual registered proprietor of the land).
How can I claim possession?
Evidence of factual possession is necessary. A good example of this is fencing. If you can prove that you have continuously fenced in the area of land that you wish to claim as your own without objection being raised by anyone for the requisite period then this is a good start.
How long do I need to have had the intention to possess the land?
The required period of possession is 12 years (there are certain circumstances when the period is reduced to 10 years). This means that after 12 years of continuous adverse possession you will be permitted to apply to the Land Registry to be registered as the proprietor in place of the actual registered proprietor of the land you are claiming.
Should I deal with the land in a specific way in order to prove possession?
The courts have decided that the alleged possessor of land must have an “appropriate degree of exclusive physical control of the land depending on the nature of the land” and must have been dealing with the land as an “occupying owner might have been expected to deal with the land and that no one else has done so”.
How do I apply to be registered as the registered proprietor?
You must make your application to the Land Registry together with a statutory declaration and any other evidence in support of your claim. The actual registered proprietor of the land will be notified by the Land Registry of your application and will be given an opportunity to oppose your application. If they make no objection then it will be at the discretion of the Land Registry whether they will register you as the registered proprietor of the land.
How can landowners avoid the possibility of adverse possession claims on their land?
You must know the extent of your property including boundaries. It is important that your land is registered at Land Registry to ensure there is a complete record of the area of your land. Also, sometimes easily forgotten, you must notify the Land Registry if you change address. If they need to write to you with notice of an adverse possession application, they will write to the address given to them when you first purchased your land. If you have changed address then this notice might never reach you and the sad fact is that if you raise no objection then you may lose your land to a squatter.