Most people have heard of the legal doctrine of adverse possession. It allows a party to go into court to assert ownership of all or a portion of another's land. Since it is not unusual for a land owner to use the land of an adjacent land owner, adverse possession claims are more common than one may think. Determining whether the use of the other's land is enough to claim ownership, however, is where things begin to get tricky.
In Connecticut, to establish title by adverse possession, six elements must be established:
- The claimant must oust an owner of possession of real property. The ouster need not be a physical eviction, but rather a possession which evinces a claim of exclusive right and title. Accordingly, one must do more than merely trespass. One must demonstrate an intention that one is entitled to use land at issue.
- The claimant must maintain possession without interruption for fifteen years. While there normally cannot be any periods when possession is surrendered, for seasonal property, such as a summer cabin, off-season possession is not required.
- The possession must be open and visible. The claimant's use of the other's land must be sufficient to put the other person on notice of the fact that the land in question is held by the claimant as his or her own.
- The possession must be exclusive. Exclusive possession means that the possession by the claimant was not shared with the other party, the other party's predecessors in title, or anyone else for that matter.
- The possession must be under a claim of right with the intent to use the property as ones' own. This is similar to the ouster requirement. It simply means that the claimant must possess the property at issue without recognition of the right of the landowner.
- Finally, the possession must be without the consent of the owner. If the owner has given permission to use the land, then one cannot establish ownership by adverse possession.
If you have reviewed this list and believe that you are close but are lacking in one or two requirements, it is possible that you may be able to obtain a lesser right of ownership over the land in question. For example, one may be able to obtain an easement over another's property even if the use was not exclusive, but rather, shared with the owner.
In any specific case, there are usually other variables which may ultimately effect whether a party may obtain ownership and/or use of another's land by adverse possession or other similar legal doctrines. If you believe you have such a claim, discussing your situation with a competent attorney is a critical first step. If I can be of assistance in analyzing your questions, or if you have questions relating to other areas of business law, please feel free to call or email me.