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What Is Adverse Possession?

Often referred to colloquially as squatting, adverse possession involves the usurping or occupying of property that an individual is not legally entitled to. When an individual occupies a piece of property for a specified amount of time, which is usually 10 years in most jurisdictions, then the individual can legally claim the property. This method of claiming land done through adverse possession is a means of land acquisition without actual monetary transaction. Thus, the person can become the owner not by purchasing the land but by occupying it for a certain number of years.

Before an individual can acquire property through adverse possession, there are 5 conditions that must be fulfilled. First, the individual must physically possess the property. This entails actual and substantial possession of the property. Secondly, the individual exercise open and notorious use of the property. This means that the individual treats the property as it were his or her own and limits its use by other individuals. This leads to the third condition, exclusive use of the property. Fourthly, there is hostile or adverse use of the property, which entails use of the property without the permission of the true owner. Fifthly, the individual must be in continual possession of the property. The individual who wishes to gain the property cannot leave the property otherwise he or she loses the time accrued.

Cases of adverse possession usually involve incorrect mapping or placing of boundaries between properties. It is uncommon for an individual to trespass upon land and claim it through adverse possession. This is usually done when a piece of land is uninhabited or the property seems abandoned.

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