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Real property

adverse possession of property

Adverse possession—sometimes called squatter's rights—occurs when a person or entity who does not own a certain piece of real property occupies or uses it in a way that is adverse to the owner of the property—meaning the use is in conflict or at odds with the property owner’s interests.

If this adverse possession or use of the property meets the legal standard for adverse possession—often described as use that is continuous, exclusive, hostile, open, and notorious—and continues for the prescribed period of time (usually specified in the state statute)—the person or entity adversely possessing or using the property will acquire ownership of the property (title). This ownership will result in the changing of boundary lines.

Because the required adverse possession must be open, obvious, and adverse to the owner’s interests, title may only be acquired by adverse possession to the portion of property that is used in that way.

Adverse possession laws vary from state to state and may be located in a state’s court opinions (also known as common law or case law) or, more often, in its statutes.

In Texas, adverse possession laws allow a person to claim ownership of property if they have occupied it in a way that is hostile, actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and continuous for a specific period of time. The statutory periods in Texas range from 3 to 25 years, depending on the circumstances and whether the claimant has a deed or pays property taxes. The most common time frame is 10 years, but a 5-year period applies if the possessor cultivates, uses, or enjoys the property and pays applicable taxes while holding it under a deed or another legal document. A 3-year period applies if the person has a deed or other title document that they reasonably believe entitles them to the property. To claim adverse possession, the possessor must not have the owner's permission to use the property, and their possession must be such that it gives the true owner notice of the adverse claim. If successful, adverse possession can change property boundary lines, effectively granting the possessor legal title to the property. However, the process is complex and typically requires legal action to confirm the change in title, so consulting with an attorney is advisable for anyone considering or contesting an adverse possession claim.

Legal articles related to this topic

Is Possession Really Nine-Tenths of the Law? What You Need to Know
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law" is a popular adage, but it doesn't represent an accurate statement of the law. Instead, it captures a general sentiment about the importance and advantage of physical possession in property disputes.
Adverse Possession and “Squatters Rights”: What You Need to Know
Adverse Possession is a legal concept that allows a person to gain ownership of a piece of real property that they do not have legal title to, provided they possess it for a specified period of time and meet certain other conditions.