Claims related to adverse possession of land (colloquially referred to as squatting) are fairly common. Every year thousands of applications are received which are based wholly or in part on adverse possession. These may be related to adverse possession of registered land or adverse possession of unregistered land. A lot of cases are disputed and are the subject of court proceedings or hearings before the Adjudicator of the Land Registry. Persons who claim land are successful in supplanting the previous owners in over half of the total cases filed. At times the land involved in the case is of great value. Residential land is most often contested but there are litigations involving commercial or agricultural land too. In many cases a boundary dispute might be involved in an adverse possession case.
As per the normal rule in case the adverse possession is for a period 10 or 12 years (the actual period depends on a number of factors) the owner of the paper title will be unable to recover the land and the possessor will be entitled to get the land registered in his name.
Timing is critical in these cases for the paper title owners and the possessors alike. If the owners are aware that they are at risk, they may need to make possession claims to stop time running against them since they may lose their entitlement to recover their land if they realise it too late. On the other hand, the possessors will not want to take any step during the limitation period that would alert the owners to the position.
As adverse possession solicitors we provide assistance at every step beginning with pre-action advice, including advice on the evidence required to support or defend a claim for adverse possession. While dealing with adverse possession cases, we also advise our clients on the relative merits of the court or the Land Registry as forums for resolving a dispute. Since it is usually desirable to settle rather than to litigate we also offer advice regarding feasibility of negotiation, mediation and cost protection. In case taking a dispute to a hearing seems inevitable we have substantial experience in preparing for hearings in all forums. We also enjoy close connections with members of the property bar who have rich experience of handling adverse possession cases.