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    15 February 2021

    Adverse Possession Q&A

    Adverse possession is sometimes described as "squatter's rights". Prior to the Land Registration Act 2002, a squatter could acquire the right to be registered as proprietor of a registered estate if they had been in adverse possession of the land for a minimum of 12 years.  Since the Land Registration Act 2002 came into force, it is more difficult to claim adverse possession of registered land, although the period of possession is reduced to 10 years.  The minimum 12 year period of possession remains for unregistered land.

    Property Litigation Solicitor, Damian Pitts who has seen an increase in adverse possessions claims, offers guidance in our Q&A overview.

    Q. What is Adverse Possession?

    Adverse Possession is a legal principle which allows a person to acquire legal ownership of land, based on continuous use of the land without the permission of the owner, for a specified period of time.

    The position depends on whether the land in question is registered or unregistered.

    Q. What are the elements of Adverse Possession?

    A successful claim for adverse possession must show that the person has:

    • factual possession of the land – this could include fencing off an area of land to include it as your own or maintaining the land, and;
    • an intention to possess the land, and;
    • without the owner’s consent and without secrecy or force for a continuous period of at least 10 years, in the case of registered land and 12 years if the land is unregistered.

    It is important to note, however, there are certain situations where the necessary 10 or 12 year period may be extended, for example where the land is owned by the Crown.

    Q. How do I make a claim?

    • Registered Land

    After 10 years of adverse possession, a person is entitled to apply to be the registered owner of the land.  An application for registration, on the basis of adverse possession, must be submitted to the HM Land Registry using the prescribed form and be accompanied by a statement of truth and the necessary supporting evidence.

    The registered owner of the land and any interested parties will be notified of the application and have the opportunity to oppose or object to the application.

    If no objection is made, and the Land Registry is satisfied that the person’s evidence is sufficient to demonstrate adverse possession, then the land will be registered in the person’s name with possessory title.  After a further 2 years, the person will be entitled to apply to upgrade the title to title absolute.

    • Unregistered Land

    After 12 years of adverse possession, an application for registration must be submitted to the HM Land Registry using the prescribed form and be accompanied by a plan, showing the land and the necessary supporting evidence.  Again, objections can be made to the application.

    Q. How do I object a claim?

    If an application on the basis of adverse possession has been made against registered land that you own, you will be notified by the HM Land Registry.  You will be given the opportunity to oppose the application by serving a counter notice. Unless the person making the application can show that one of the three statutory criteria are met, then their application will be rejected.  Alternatively, or in addition to the counter notice, an objection can also be raised if the application does not meet the necessary criteria for an adverse possession claim.  For example, if there has not been 10 years adverse possession. If an objection is raised and not resolved between the parties, then the Land Registrar will refer the case to the First Tier Tribunal.

    However, it is important to note that if your objection is upheld, you will have a period of 2 years to regain possession of the land, otherwise the person in adverse possession is entitled to apply again to be the registered owner of the land and you will not be permitted to make a further objection.

    An objection can also be made in relation to an application against unregistered land, however, if an agreement is not reached between parties the registrar will refer the matter to the First Tier Tribunal.

    Contact us

    For more information on how the Steeles Law Dispute Resolution team can support you through an Adverse Possession claim, please call 01603 598000 or email disputes@steeleslaw.co.uk and a member of the team will be happy to assist.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

    **Reference material:

    Practice Guide 4: adverse possession of registered land.

    Land Registry Guide for unregistered land


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