Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Adverse Possession


Adverse Possession is a legal principle that allows a person to gain ownership of a property if they have occupied it without the true owner’s permission for a significant period of time. This period varies depending on the jurisdiction, but it often requires continuous possession for several years. The essential components of adverse possession are that the possession is hostile, actual, open and notorious, and continuous for the required period.


The phonetics of the keyword “Adverse Possession” is:ædˈvɜːrs pəˈzɛʃən

Key Takeaways


  1. Adverse Possession is a doctrine under property law that allows a trespasser to gain legal ownership of a property if they possess it openly and without the consent of the original owner for a significant period of time, typically outlined by state law.
  2. The individual asserting adverse possession must prove specific conditions to establish their claim, often referred to as “hostile,” “actual,” “open and notorious,” “exclusive,” and “continuous.” Each condition varies slightly by jurisdiction, but generally, the individual must use the property as a true owner would, without being secretive about their occupancy, and do so over a continuous period.
  3. Adverse Possession does not automatically provide the trespasser with legal ownership. Instead, the individual must take legal steps to claim the title, often through a quiet title action. Should the original owner challenge this claim, the court will weigh the evidence to determine rightful ownership.



Adverse Possession is a critical concept in the realm of business and finance, specifically in property law, due to its potential to alter ownership rights. This principle allows a person to gain legal ownership of a property, usually land, which they do not hold a legal title to by continuous and exclusive possession over a certain period. It is important because it encourages the productive use of the property and punishes those who sleep on their rights. This legal provision can have significant financial implications for both the original owner and the adverse possessor, impacting property finances, ownership, and related transactions if not properly managed. It assures that property is continuously utilized while promoting resolution of potentially lengthy disputes over ownership.


Adverse possession is a legal principle that allows a person who possesses or inhabits someone else’s property for an extended period of time to claim legal ownership of it, provided certain conditions are met. Its purpose is not to claim a property illegally, but rather to ensure the productive use of the property and provide clarity and continuity of ownership. In a way, it rewards individuals who actively take care of a property that was neglected or abandoned by its rightful owner. Typically, adverse possession is used when property boundaries are unclear, the property is abandoned, or when a person has been living in or using someone else’s property without their permission for a long time. It helps to prevent unnecessary disputes and litigation by honoring the fact of possession and occupation, rather than just legal title. If successful, it can result in the transfer of title from the original owner to the possessor. This concept is commonly used in real estate transactions and in property law to clear up complex title disputes.


1. Residential Property Case: In New York, a man named Williams occupied an abandoned building and made apparent improvements to the property over the course of 10 years. He continuously paid property taxes, maintained the property well, and behaved as if he was the actual owner. After the ten years, he was able to successfully claim the property through adverse possession.2. Undeveloped Land Example: A woman in rural Montana started using an unoccupied parcel of land near her property to raise a herd of goats. The actual owner didn’t realize this for about 15 years, and by the time he discovered what was happening, the woman was able to claim adverse possession over the land because she had been using it openly, continuously, and without permission for more than the statutory period in Montana.3. Shared Land Case: In California, two neighbors shared a driveway on their property boundary. For over 20 years, one of the neighbors regularly maintained the entire driveway, including the half that technically belonged to the other neighbor. He also built a carport that encroached on the other neighbor’s side of the driveway. When the other neighbor finally noticed and tried to claim their right to that portion of the driveway, the court ruled that adverse possession applied since the neighbor had been maintaining and using the entire driveway openly, continuously, and without protest from the other neighbor for over 20 years.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is a legal principle that allows a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property, to acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission of its legal owner.

How long does a person need to occupy a property to claim Adverse Possession?

The time frame can vary depending on the jurisdiction. Usually, the period of continuous possession required varies from 5 to 20 years.

Can a property under Adverse Possession be sold?

Yes, in some jurisdictions, a person may sell property they have acquired through adverse possession. However, this might require a court order establishing the title before the property can be sold.

Does the original owner have any rights in case of Adverse Possession?

For the possessor to acquire a title, the original owner must either do nothing to evict them or fail to act within a specified time after they become aware of the possession. If the original owner takes timely action, the claim of adverse possession can be defeated.

What are the requirements for Adverse Possession?

While the specifics can vary by jurisdiction, most require the possession to be continuous, hostile (without the owner’s permission), open and notorious (the possession is obvious), and actual (the possessor is on the land).

Can Adverse Possession occur with government-owned lands?

Generally, government-owned lands are usually exempt from adverse possession, meaning that individuals cannot gain control of the property through continuous possession.

What is the purpose of Adverse Possession laws?

Adverse possession laws serve to ensure the proper, continuous use of property and conversion of vacant lands into productive use, as well as settling property disputes and limitations on title recovery by original owners.

Is it necessary to pay property taxes during the period of Adverse Possession?

In some jurisdictions, paying property taxes during the period of possession is a requisite, while in others it can strengthen the case of adverse possession but is not mandatory.

Related Finance Terms

  • Real Estate Law
  • Trespasser’s Rights
  • Squatter’s Rights
  • Quiet Title Action
  • Statute of Limitations in Property Law

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More