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What should you know about adverse possession?

California readers know that trespassing is illegal, but there are circumstances in which a person could actually obtain certain rights to use property that belongs to another party. This confusing concept goes by the name of adverse possession, and you may find it beneficial to understand how this process works.

In certain circumstances, a person who has been trespassing for an extended period of time may actually obtain the right to stay on the property. In order to qualify for adverse possession, a person must be using the land exclusively and openly, without attempting to hide it. The rights granted to a person through adverse possession differ on a case-by-case basis and depend on the unique circumstances of the individual case.

Who should pursue an adverse property claim?

One of the most common examples of the need to file an adverse property claim is when a person inherits or comes into possession of a piece of land that comes with very little documentation. This often happens when a person receives property from a family member in a will or through a traditional chain of possession.

An adverse possession claim could also be appropriate when a person who is not the property owner uses a piece of land for an extended amount of time, typically for several years.

A valid adverse possession claim

There are certain requirements a person must meet in order to qualify for an adverse possession claim. These include the following:

  • The claimant must be occupying, regardless of whether or not he or she knows it is actually trespassing.
  • The actual act of trespassing must be fairly obvious.
  • The claimant must be treating the land as if he or she owned it.
  • The trespassing must occur for an unbroken, extended period of time, unshared with any other person. 

Whether you are the one who wishes to have legal claim to a piece of land you are using or you have concerns about a person trespassing on your property, you could benefit from a complete explanation of your legal rights and the options available to you.

The terminology associated with adverse possession and trespassing is confusing and difficult. Whether you are considering initiating an adverse claim or simply want a better explanation of your property rights, you would be wise not to delay in seeking an evaluation of your case. When it comes to your entitlements, rightful access and use of property, there is no time to lose.

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