What is adverse possession and how does it affect my land?


Adverse possession is a tricky concept to get your head around. In simple terms it refers to acquiring land that doesn’t belong to you.

An “adverse possessor” relates to an individual who, if they trespass on or occupy land owned by someone else for a sufficient and continuous amount of time, can claim a lawful title to the land in question.

Throughout the history of time, individuals, communities and nations have battled for the ownership of land – for status and basic survival needs. Laws are passed to uphold the right to ownership but that’s not to say circumstances are clear-cut or that entitlements are easy to exchange.

Land is precious so it pays to understand your rights when it comes to long-term use and to seek professional advice – whether you own the land or use the land.

When did adverse possession become law?

The doctrine of adverse possession became law to combat land going to waste but also to be fair to all parties involved. The process of adverse possession will favour the occupation of the land rather than the wishes of the applicant and will consider the interests of the land owners and those of the general public.

When does adverse possession become a right?

According to the Land Registration Act 2002,an individual must be in possession of land or be using it in some way for at least ten years – twelve years if the land is officially registered in someone’s name. After this period has passed the individual will be entitled to make an application to the Land Registry to gain ownership of the land.

The applicant must also have the necessary intent to acquire the land.

There are two circumstances where adverse possession may arise:

  • When land is unregistered with the Land Registry
  • When land is registered with the Land Registry

When land is unregistered, sections of the Limitations Act 1980 will apply. For circumstances involving land that is already registered to an owner, the Land Registration Act 2002 will apply.

Additional circumstances to be aware of

There are situations where special circumstances will apply which include, but are by no means exhaustive – crown land, acreage belonging to the Church of England representatives, and dissolved companies.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of adverse possession and to discuss circumstances where you may be able to claim ownership of land or are worried that someone may be able to claim land from you, please contact a representative of Anthony Stockton Solicitors – call 0330 055 3737 for a free quotation.