More on Adverse Possession
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM ## LAW 733
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: The rules in each state are different
if a neighbor encroaches on your land. Several months ago, we ran a column about
a case involving adverse possession. We thought we’d run a few of the
responses in today’s column. To read more responses, or contribute your
own anecdotes, please go to www.thinkglink.com/forum.
Q: I just read your article about having to adversely possess land for 21 years
in order to own it.
(article continues below useful links)
Be mindful that in California there is an added requirement of having to pay
any taxes invoiced, but the period is only five years - and you don't have to
pay any other expenses.
A: Our thanks to everyone who wrote about this topic.
Adverse possession is the legal term given to a person who takes real estate
to be his own without the consent of the rightful owner. Some states do require
the person who is claiming ownership to property that he or she knows might
not be theirs or is not theirs, to pay the real estate taxes on that land.
While adverse possession is hard to prove in urban areas, it can happen. If
a home in a city was abandoned and a stranger moved into the home, treated it
as his own, paid the real estate taxes and the rightful owner never came around,
that stranger would be entitled to keep the home after a certain period of time.
In traditional cases that time period could be up to 21 years.
As you have indicated, some states may require a lesser period of time. The
whole idea behind adverse possession is to let time work in favor of those people
that are actually caring and occupying a piece of land. Just as jewelry and
other items of personal property may be lost and unclaimed, the same holds true
for land. A person might die owning a piece of land in some place far from where
the person lived and no relatives knew of that land.
That land sits there abandoned until one day somebody makes a claim to the
land. If a relative finds out about the land, the relative can claim it and
kick the trespasser out. But if the trespasser stays there, there’s a
chance he can keep the land for himself.
The law has incorporated the concept of adverse possession in order to clean
up “lost” parcels of land and keep the record-keeping of land clean.
That doesn’t mean you can move into your neighbor’s house as they
leave for vacation. That’s still a crime. But if a property is abandoned,
and no one is paying the real estate taxes or taking care of it, then that property
could fall within the realm of becoming lost by the rightful owner.
If you own land, you must make sure you pay any taxes that are due on it, keep
a watch on it and kick any trespasser off.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com