Several legal doctrines permit individuals who do not own title to a specific piece of land to acquire ownership of that land by operation of the law. One such method of land acquisition is adverse possession. The specific laws of adverse possession vary considerably from state to state, including the amount of time the individual must have adversely occupied the land, the requirement to pay taxes during this time frame and whether the individual has possession of a document or deed suggesting ownership of the property (even if such document is faulty).
According to the law in Georgia, adverse possession, also referred to as “squatters rights” laws, provides that an individual who occupies a piece of land, but is not the title owner, may nevertheless attain ownership of that land (i) under certain conditions after 20 years, or (ii) under “color of title” for seven years. Color of title is a principle that states that an individual has a legal, but defective, claim to property, such as possessing a deed to property that is simultaneously held by another individual. In Georgia, the individual claiming adverse possession must have a document or deed demonstrating a claim to obtain the land in 7 years by adverse possession.
There are several requirements that must be satisfied to establish ownership through adverse possession. First, the individual adversely occupying the property must truly and actually inhabit the property as the actual owner would (such as through making repairs when necessary). The property must be used both continuously and for a specified period of time (and not simply subject to a “claim” of ownership without continuous use). The property must be occupied and utilized in a direct and open manner that is not concealed from the true property owner. In addition, the individual must be the exclusive user of the property, such that the legal title holder has not made use of the property during the statutory time period required to assert adverse possession.
The experienced team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C. specializes in real estate law and is knowledgeable in all areas of Georgia property law. Contact Mark Weinstein and his colleagues at (770) 888-7707 or visit them at https://www.markweinsteinlaw.com to find out how they can advise you.