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Acquiring land in California through adverse possession

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2021 | Real Estate Transactions |

Purchasing and owning property is a goal for many California residents. However, coming in possession of real property does not only occur through a real estate transaction. In some cases, individuals may purposefully or by accident take possession of land by merely occupying it. However, one must meet certain requirements to claim possession of this land.

Adverse possession

In simple terms, adverse possession is when an individual takes over neglected property, either on purpose or by mistake, and title is acquired to that property after a certain period of time has passed and other factors are met. This form of land taking comes from the notion that land should not sit idle.

Thus, if a piece of land is considered neglected and is taken care of by another party, title could be obtained through adverse possession in the state of California if there has been at least five years of possession and taxes have been paid during that timeframe. In other words, possession of the property cannot be done is secret, as the payment of taxes is a requirement in California.

Elements required to make a claim

There are four elements that need to be met in order for a valid adverse possession claim to exist. First, there must be a hostile claim. This means that the trespasser must either make an honest mistake regarding the ownership of the land, such as relying on an incorrect deed, merely occupy the land with or without the knowledge that it is private property or be fully aware that he or she is trespassing. Second, there must be actual possession. This means that the trespasser must be physically present on the land and treat it as if it was his or her own.

The third element is open and notorious possession. This means that the trespassing cannot be secret but is rather known. Finally, the possession needs to be exclusive and continuous. This means that possession cannot be shared with others, and possession of the land must occur for an unbroken period of time. In California, this is for 5 years.

Real estate law can be complex and have many working parts. With regards to adverse possession, it may not be clear if one can claim possession through this process. Thus, it is important that one explores this and other options when it comes to owning or taking possession of land.