Adverse possession is a legal principle which allows an occupier of land (which they do not own) to gain ownership rights over that land in certain situations. Adverse possession is more generally and colloquially referred to as ‘squatter’s rights’.

Disputes arising from the operation of adverse possession are very common. You or your business may stand to lose or gain land through adverse possession, but in either case you need to know your rights and to make sure they are protected in any ensuing dispute. We can help.

At Luscombe Gray, we offer practical and effective legal assistance to clients involved in property disputes. Our solutions are formed from the real-world context of your situation, not just abstract legal problem-solving. Your interests or the interests of your business are placed at the centre of what we do.

Needless aggression in property litigation is often counter-productive, leading to entrenched positions, protracted arguments, and financial harm. Luscombe Gray does things differently. We strongly believe in taking an ethical approach to property disputes, enforcing and protecting your rights, and recognising when conciliation and mediation are best for your interests or the interests of your business.

If you would like to discuss how Luscombe Gray can help you or your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Some technicalities of adverse possession

To establish adverse possession, the person relying on it must be able to demonstrate factual possession of the land, with the necessary intention to possess and without the owner’s consent.

  • Factual possession is where the occupier has exerted physical control over the land and has been dealing with it as an occupying owner would have been expected to deal with it.
  • An intention to possess is where the occupier has demonstrated an intention to exclude the world at large, including the “owner on paper.”

In reality, factual possession and an intention to possess are interlinked, with putting up a fence being an example of both.,

  • Without the owner’s consent is self-explanatory, i.e. the occupier is someone who has no right or permission (either expressly or by implication) to be in possession of the land.

Application for adverse possession

If adverse possession can be established, the person or business claiming the benefit can apply to the Land Registry to be registered as the proprietor of the land.

Prior to 12 October 2003 the person or business claiming the benefit could acquire title to registered and unregistered land if they had been in adverse possession of the land for a minimum of 12 years. This remains the position where land is unregistered, or the person or business claiming the benefit had been in adverse possession of registered land for 12 years prior to 12 October 2003.

The rules relating to registered land changed from 13 October 2003 following the introduction of the Land Registration Act 2002. A person or business can now able to apply to be registered as the proprietor of registered land after 10 years’ adverse possession.

If the registered owner of the land opposes an application for adverse possession, the application will be rejected unless one of three conditions applies.

  1. The first condition is satisfied where it can be established that:
    – the owner of the land encouraged the person or business claiming the benefit to believe they owned the land;,
    – the person or business acted on that belief to their detriment;
    – the owner of the land was aware of this and it would be “unconscionable” for the owner to deny the person or business the rights that they believed they had.An example would be where a person or business has built on land believing it to be their own and the owner has allowed this.
  2. The second condition is satisfied if it can be established that the person or business claiming the benefit is entitled to be registered as the proprietor of the land for some other reason. An example would be where the parties entered into a contract to buy land , the purchase price was paid, but title had not been formally transferred.
  3. The third condition is satisfied if the person or business claiming the benefit has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own for at least 10 years under the mistaken belief that they are the owner, the exact boundary line has not been determined and the land was registered more than a year prior to the application. An example would be where a boundary wall or fence has been built on neighbouring land.

Complexities of adverse possession

The law surrounding adverse possession is complicated.

The individual circumstances of a case will affect many aspects of an adverse possession dispute. It is therefore crucial that you or your business has specialist legal support in place to navigate this tricky area of law.

Instructing Luscombe Gray

Luscombe Gray is a boutique commercial and property litigation firm, providing a tailor-made commercial property service to all of our clients.

We believe first-class commercial legal support should be available to all. Whether you need advice as an individual, or on behalf of your business – whatever its size – we are more than willing to provide our services and put our specialist skill and knowledge at your disposal.

Your case will be handled by Chris Luscombe personally, so you can be certain that your business will be able to call upon the expertise of an experienced commercial and property litigation solicitor. Throughout his career, Chris has helped a wide range of clients resolve their property disputes, from private clients, to small businesses, national pub companies, and multi-national telecoms giants.

Luscombe Gray is based in the heart of Yorkshire, in Harrogate, with the reach to assist clients across the country.

If you or your business needs legal support on a dispute over adverse possession, contact Luscombe Gray for clear, ethical, expert advice.