Also referred to as adverse possession, squatters rights arise when someone occupies land that is not theirs for a certain period of time.
Squatters’ rights most often arise over pieces of land adjacent to property owned by the squatter, such as grass verges, strips of land used for parking or areas adjoining a garden as well as over more substantial property and land.
Emotions can often run high in dealing with disputed areas of land and attempts to take adverse possession. If you find yourself in this situation, you are advised to seek legal advice early on. An experienced property disputes solicitor will often be able to help you resolve matters without the need for protracted legal proceedings.
To be eligible to claim adverse possession or squatters’ rights, you will need to prove the following:
An application for possession can be made as soon as the ten or twelve years of adverse occupation, ie. continuous occupation without consent of the owner, has passed.
You will need to provide evidence that you were physically in possession of the land and that you dealt with it as if it were your own. This could be by showing that you have fenced, mown or otherwise maintained it.
To demonstrate that you held adverse possession, you will usually need to show that you held the land wholly for your benefit and that others were excluded.
The first step is to fill in the Land Registry’s form ADV1: registration of a person in adverse possession. This should be accompanied by a statement of truth on form ST1. You will need to provide a range of information, including the following:
Once your application has been received by HM Land Registry, they will send a notice to the landowner. They will then have 65 days in which to object.
The landowner can lodge an objection to an adverse possession claim.
It may be that the applicant has failed to prove that they have occupied the land for the required period, that they have not demonstrated exclusive possession or that they have had the landowner’s permission to be there, meaning the occupation was not adverse.
The landowner also has the option of serving a counternotice on the applicant, requiring them to prove one of the following points:
Making a successful claim for adverse possession as a long-term squatter is not easy, but as a land or property owner you are always advised to take action to reduce the risk of having to evict squatters or enter into legal action against someone who seeks to claim squatters rights. This is particularly important if you own unused or abandoned property.
The following will help you make it as difficult as possible for potential claimants:
If a dispute over the location of a boundary arises, you can ask a surveyor to prepare a professional report and plan, which could be used to support your case.
Disputes over property ownership can become entrenched if not dealt with quickly. If difficulties arise that you cannot resolve straightaway, you are strongly recommended to speak to an expert property dispute lawyer. It is quite often the case that a formal solicitors’ letter can prevent matters from degenerating.
At Lockings, we represent individuals seeking to establish or defend property rights. We have extensive experience in dealing with property disputes and we are often able to resolve matters without the need for litigation.
Contact our property dispute solicitors in Beverley, Hull and York
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