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How adverse possession can affect your ability to secure a clear title to your property

| Feb 22, 2021 | Real Estate Transactions |

When you own or buy a piece of property, the possibility of adverse possession may not even enter your mind. Adverse possession is a process by which someone can gain ownership rights over a piece of real estate without going through the formal process of buying it.

Adverse possession can start with squatting, but it’s actually a complex issue that develops over time. If your right to a piece of property is being challenged through adverse possession or you’re asserting your right to a piece of property through adverse possession, it’s smart to understand what that means.

What conditions must the adverse possessor meet to secure ownership?

Every state is different. In Pennsylvania, someone can only make a case for ownership rights to a piece of property through adverse possession after “10 years of actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile possession of the real property.”

What does this mean? Essentially:

  • They occupied the property openly for at least 10 years.
  • They enforced boundaries, when necessary, against anyone who sought to encroach upon their space.
  • Their occupation has been uninterrupted.
  • They behaved as if they were the rightful owners of the property.

A squatter, for example, would likely occupy a property quietly in hopes that they wouldn’t be noticed. Someone who has taken adverse possession of the property, however, would likely keep the property up, pay the taxes, make improvements and otherwise live in the open.

How can you deal with adverse possession of your property?

Whether you’re trying to assert your legal claim over a piece of property that you took by adverse possession or defend against it, it’s best not to try to handle the issue alone. An experienced PA attorney can help.