Adverse possession is an-old Colonial English --Common Law Rule-- that practically legalizes land theft, under the Doctrine of “Adverse Possession.” Through Adverse Possession, one may acquire title to someone else's property simply by occupying it for a statutory period of time.
This automatic transfer of title is done through the Statue of Limitation to Trespass. If a titleholder of a property does not take action to eject a trespasser to his/her land, during the statute of limitation, which varies from state to state, the title vests automatically in the unlawful possessor.
The statute of limitation starts to run from when the true owner can bring a suit against the trespasser. However, the filing alone does not stop the clock. A judgment must be pursued.
Please note that I am, personally, against any kind of theft, let alone land theft. However, our discussion here is not about scruples of morality, but the principles of legibility. This is just to touch upon issues that may affect all of us from time to time.
Adverse Possession is a way of acquiring title to someone else's property without the owner's consent. This transfer of ownership rights is based on a Common Law rationale that property should not be removed from use for excessive periods of time.
Many states such as California have adopted the Common Law of adverse possession and have delineated a series of requirements through statutes. Once the mandated requirements are met, the claimant automatically becomes the new and lawful owner of the subject property. Of course, either party may seek a judgment to quite title.
It is important to know that adverse possession doctrine only works with private properties. Thus one cannot acquire title to government land through adverse possession.
In order for a claimant to succeed in an action to quite title, through adverse possession in California, five requirements must be met:
1) Notorious Occupation of the property.
This means that the claimant must actually and openly occupy the property, to the exclusion of others, for the statutory period of time. This element is met, if the title-holder and/or agent, through a reasonable inspection of the property, can discover the occupancy.
2) HOSTILE TAKE OVER:
Hostile in law lexicon does not mean the same as everyday language. Hostile possession simply means that the owner did not permit the adverse possessor to park or build, etc., on the disputed land.
3) Color of title or Claim of Right
The third requirement is that the possession must be made in good faith under either a claim of right or a color of title. If the adverse possessor has a defective title, such as a forged deed or in a community property state such as California, one of the spouses has not signed the document, etc., then the occupation is under color of title.
3) FIVE YEARS'CONTINUOUS POSSESSION
In California, this requirement mandates that the possession of such property must be continuous for at least 5 years. However, continuous is a term of art. Thus it is not required constant possession of the disputed land. The adverse possession claimant must only show that it made such ordinary possession of the property with such frequencies, as a reasonable owner of similar property would do.
The facts that the owner lived long distance away or was too frail to inspect the property are irrelevant. However, the court may consider disabilities to sue when the cause of action accrued, such as: minority, imprisonment, or insanity, in order to determine whether the statutory period has been met.
4) PAYMENT OF TAXES:
Finally, in California, the occupant must pay all taxes against the property during the five-years period. This requirement is very strict and failure to pay the taxes for each one of the mandated 5 years defeats the adverse possession claim.
It is very important, before buying any kind of reality, to make sure that the seller has a Marketable Title to transfer to you.
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