Adverse possession is when someone occupies property or land which they do not own without the true owner’s permission, they are in adverse possession of it.
In certain circumstances a person who stays in adverse possession for long enough can claim ‘possessory title’ and the original owner’s title will be extinguished.
Even when someone in adverse possession cannot claim possessory title it can be difficult to get them evicted and it will often be necessary to go to court.
For these reasons it is important when buying property to make sure that there is no-one in adverse possession. Sellers should be asked to confirm who is in occupation of the property, and the basis of their occupation.
When buying a property with vacant possession it is important to make sure that no-one stays in occupation after completion. So any adult who lives in the property but whose name is not on the title register should be asked to sign the contract to confirm that they will vacate the property at completion.
If a property is being bought subject to an existing tenancy, enquiries should be made to confirm that the tenants have not unlawfully sub-let or allowed anyone else into occupation.
Another point to watch when buying a property is to check that the position of the boundaries on the ground agrees with the title plan – sometimes fences are moved and a neighbour may be in adverse possession of part of the property. If in doubt get a Surveyor to carry out a check.
If you find that the seller of a property only has possessory title then your Conveyancing Solicitor will advise you on the consequences.