What is Adverse Possession?
"Squatters' rights" is an informal term that refers to the legal concept of adverse possession. This concept allows a person who has occupied and possessed land or property without the owner's permission for a certain period of time to potentially claim legal ownership of that land or property.
However, the process is not as straightforward as it may initially appear and there are specific conditions that must be met as well as limitations under the law for England and Wales.
A brief summary of Adverse Possession (Squatter’s Rights).
To claim adverse possession, the individual or "squatter" must have continuously occupied and possessed the land or property for a certain period.
This possession must be without the owner’s consent/permission and must be open e.g. possession should not be concealed or hidden and as such it must be clear to anyone that the squatter is occupying the property without the owner's consent. Therefore, if the squatter has any legal right in the land or property e.g. a lease or licence from the legal owner they cannot claim adverse possession.
Another important factor of Adverse Possession is ‘exclusivity’. For the squatter to make a claim they must have exclusive use of the land or property meaning they control and use the land how they see fit to the exclusion of all others, including the legal owner.
It is often the case although not always that the legal owner will be notified of the squatter’s intention to claim adverse possession. This will give the owner an opportunity to oppose any claim. Other scenarios arise when adverse possession entitlement had been acquired, but not asserted, and ownership not claimed.
Adverse Possession is a complex legal process and often one that is challenging for a squatter to prove. This results in many claims being unsuccessful.
In any event when dealing with Adverse Possession, whether as the claimant (the squatter) or legal owner looking to defend a claim it is always advisable to seek expert legal guidance from a trained professional.
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