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Did you know that if someone unlawfully occupies in another person’s property for 12 years without their consent they can apply to be registered as the owner of that property?
Adverse Possession, often known as ‘squatter’s rights,’ is a legal principle where a person who does not have legal title over a piece of property or land can acquire legal ownership if they have occupied it for a certain period of time.
To make a claim for adverse possession, you will need to provide evidence, in the form of a statement of truth or declaration showing that you have occupied the property in a way that shows you intend to show the rest of the world that you are the owner, regardless of the fact that you do not have the title deeds to it and that your occupation ousts the holder of the title deeds. Photographs to accompany the statement of truth are a good way of giving the necessary evidence. Squatters may make an application to the Land Registry regarding the land they are adversely possessing, using two different avenues depending on whether the land is registered at the Land Registry or unregistered:
- Registered Land: An application can be made to the Land Registry after at least 10 years of adverse occupation of the land. To complicate matters a little there are two regimes that affect a claim for possession in registered land depending upon when the period of squatting began:
- If your right to claim possession arose prior to the commencement of the Land Registration Act 2002 (on the 13thOctober 2003), then you can claim using either the new regime (Land registration Act 2002) or the old regime (Land Registration Act 1925). In other words, if the land had been adversely occupied for 12 years before 13thOctober 2003 and continues to be squatted on, the Land Registry will, if it is satisfied that the criteria have been met, grant you title.
- However, if you have been squatting on registered land for a period of 10 years that only completed after 13thOctober 2003 and you continue to occupy it in the same way, then you can only claim under the Land Registration Act 2002. If you make an application for registration under this regime, the Land Registry will notify the ‘paper’ owner, the registered proprietor and he has 2 years to take steps to recover possession. If he has not at least started to take steps in 2 years, the land Registry will grant you title to the land.
- Unregistered Land: An application can be made to the Land Registry after 12 years of adverse occupation of the land. Provided that the Registry is satisfied that the criteria have been fulfilled, you will be granted ‘possessory’ title, which can be upgraded after a further 12 years to absolute title, the best form of title.
The fee payable to the Registry will depend on the value of the land but for most small parcels of would the fee would be £40 at the moment. For unregistered land an additional inspection and notice fee of about £30 will usually be payable to the Land Registry.
Adverse possession can be avoided. If you are the true owner of a property you have many options:
- You can take the adverse possessor to court.
- You can sue for trespass,
- Or have him or her ejected.
In other words, the true owner can take action to enforce their property rights within the 10/12 years. Alternatively, if the owner of the land wishes to avoid these steps, the squatter will be able to remain on the premises as long as they wish and eventually be in possession of it.
If you believe you are entitled to make a claim for adverse possession or are concerned that someone may be squatting on that your property, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us here at GoodyBurrett.
Solicitor and Partner, Head of Property Department, Colchester
Cate is a Solicitor in the Property Department covering all aspects of Property including a wide range of commercial matters, leases and residential sales and purchases. Cate approaches every client issue with a clear sense of commercial awareness. Before law, Cate had a successful career in sales. She then studied law part time with BPP in London finishing her studies in 2012.
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