Written by – Emily Gammer

Adverse Possession is a concept in which someone, who is not the legal owner, can obtain ownership of another’s land through possessing it for a specified period of time; should certain criteria be met.

How to claim adverse possession?

Where land is unregistered, an individual claiming adverse possession would need to prove 12 years’ possession of the land. However, where the land is registered, they would need to prove 10 years possession of the land, without opposition (albeit there is an ability to make a second application after a further 2 years if the original claim was disputed, but you remain in occupation).

The three main elements which are essential to bring a successful claim of adverse possession are:

  • To prove there has been uninterrupted factual possession of the land for the required time. It must be shown that there is exclusive physical control of the land. This will be dependent on what the nature of the land is. It is important to establish that you are using the land as a legal land owner would have and no other individual has done so.
  • To prove that there was an intention to possess the land during the period of possession.  For example, paying costs to maintain the land and keep it in suitable condition, as a land owner would do. It must be evidenced that the intention was to exclude all others from the land.
  • To prove that the possession was without the legal owner’s consent i.e. the land is not occupied under a lease, licence, tenancy or any other means of permission. 

The possession of the land must also be continuous. Where the land is unregistered, searches should be undertaken to ascertain who are the owners of the land.

Once evidence has been collated as per the above, an application will be made to the Land Registry to claim adverse possession of the land.  Evidence which would be beneficial to submit with an application would include:

  • Statement of Truth to illustrate how the land has been used.
  • Photographs show how the land has been used.
  • Plans to show exactly what area of the land is being claimed.

How to defend an adverse possession claim?

If you receive an adverse possession claim against land which you are the legal owner of, it is important to seek legal help to assist to avoid the possibility of losing the land. In order to defend such a claim, we would need to evidence that they do not satisfy the necessary requirements listed above.

If you think you need assistance with submitting or defending an adverse possession claim, please do not hesitate to contact us in the Dispute Resolution team who would be happy to assist you with this process.