What is Adverse Possession?

20 June 2019

Recent media coverage has highlighted what is colloquially referred to as ‘Squatter’s Rights’. The idea that a person can claim a legal right over a property which they do not own, has sparked outrage in some. So, what is Adverse Possession and how can you protect your property or land from a claim.

According to the Land Registry, after 10 years of occupying land/property, a squatter will be entitled to apply to be registered as proprietor in place of the current registered owner. On submission of the application to the Land Registry, the actual legal owner of the property will be notified of the claim and will then be afforded the opportunity to oppose the application. If the application goes unopposed, the squatter will take legal ownership of the property.

The Land Registry has set out a guide on their website outlining how a proprietor of a property/land can object to an application for Adverse Possession. We would suggesting reading the guidance for a full understanding however, we can summaries as follows:-

  1. A written application must be lodged to the Land Registry – you may wish to instruct an experienced property solicitor to do this
  2. You must clearly state your reasons for objecting to the application – for example, that the squatter has not occupied the property for the requisite time
  3. If the registrar is satisfied with the objection, the application for adverse possession will be rejected

The easiest way to avoid a claim for adverse possession, is to ensure that either you or someone you instruct regularly visits any property or land in your ownership. The ‘visit’ will demonstrate that the squatter does not have exclusive possession of the property/land and will make any claim for adverse possession almost impossible.