How Adverse Possession Could Affect Your Title
Adverse possession is a legal concept which allows an individual, under certain circumstances, to take possession of someone else's land after occupying it for a certain period of time. If someone has gained adverse possession over your property, they could potentially acquire the property's title-- even if you didn't even know they were there.
When Can Adverse Possession Occur?
In most states, several things have to occur for an individual, known as an adverse possessor, to fully take control over a piece of property, including:
- The individual must possess/use the land exclusively (this can be in a residential or commercial capacity, but cannot be shared with others)
- This usage needs to be "open and obvious" or "notorious." (i.e. they can't be hiding in bushes, others must be able to see their use)
- The owner must not have knowledge or give any permission for them to be there
- The use of the property needs to cover a specific, uninterrupted period (7 years in many states)
Who Adverse Possession Is Most Likely to Affect
If you're buying a typical single family home or some commercial property in a busy urban area, adverse possession is unlikely to affect your title. However, if you're buying (or have purchased) a large amount of remote or unimproved land, adverse possession can be a real threat. While much less likely, buying foreclosed property that has been abandoned, and off the market for a long period of time (i.e. more than 5-7 years), may also come with a certain risk of adverse possession.
In the end, while adverse possession may not be among the most common title issues, it can still be a serious risk for some types of property owners. While owner's title insurance protects against adverse possession, getting squatters off your land can still be a hassle. To make sure adverse possession won't affect you, always have a full survey and title search conducted before you buy a property-- and, if you've purchased remote, unimproved land, make sure to have it checked for squatters on a regular basis.
To learn more about how to protect your property's title, contact the experts at Florida Title Company for a free consultation.