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Adverse Possession

This is a term used when a person seeks to claim legal title to an area of land.  To claim title a person would need to show they have factual possession of such land together with the intention to possess it without the true owner’s consent.  This means that a person occupying land under a tenancy agreement or other form of Licence will have the true owner’s consent and as such the occupation will not be adverse. 

The Land Registry has different requirements depending upon whether the land in question is not yet registered at the land registry or is already registered.  For land that is not registered if the adverse possession can be shown to have commenced 12 years prior to October 2003 and the land registry requirements are met to show adverse possession it will be difficult for the true owner to prevent the application taking place.  For land that is already registered it is much more difficult for a squatter to claim adverse possession as the true owner is recorded in the land registry entries and only in very limited circumstances if an application is opposed by the true owner would an application be successful. 

It is important to note that many enquiries in respect of adverse possession can happen because there is a discrepancy with the land registry title plan.  Land registry title plans show only the general boundaries which means it is possible for an area of land to be within a registered title even though it falls outside the red edging of a title plan.  It could also happen the other way round so that land may be within the red edging which does not belong to the registered owner.  Such matters would not be dealt with as adverse possession but by a more detailed plan being used. 

As property owners would wish to have the opportunity to object to claims against their ownership it is important for a registered owner to ensure that their details for correspondence are kept up to date with the land registry so they would be contacted if the land registry receives a claim.  For those whose title is not yet registered consideration may need to be made to put in hand a voluntary first registration.