Real Life Land-Grab. (Examples of How Adverse Possession Can Affect Your Property.)

Adverse Possession

In Georgia, adverse possession, (also called “squatter’s rights”) is one way of acquiring title to real property.

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession (meaning to possess the property “adverse” to the true owner) allows people who do not have legal title to a piece of property or a portion of property to acquire title to it by occupying it for a number of years and in a particular manner.

To acquire property by adverse possession, the “squatter” must satisfy a number of ot essential elements in order to establish his right to the property. While what exactly is required (i.e., the exact elements and for how long a person must possess the property) varies from state to state, most states require the person claiming a right to the property to which he has no legal title, to establish that he occupied the property “adverse” to the real property owner’s rights. Or, put another way, that he used the property without the owner’s permission.

Georgia allows squatters to obtain possession of real property that is either:

  1. Neglected by an owner (e.g., a vacant house), or
  2. The time the property must be occupied varies depending on whether it is improved (7 years) or undeveloped land (20 years).

Examples of Adverse Possession in Action

Are there modern-day squatters?

Actually, yes.

While it may sound like something that went out with the wild West, acquiring real property by adverse possession can occur even in populated areas. For example, in one case in Atlanta, one homeowner installed a brick pathway between two houses. The true owner did not realize that the property on which the homeowner installed the walkway belonged to him. So, after 20 years of continuous use of the walkway, when the homeowner filed a motion for adverse possession, he was granted that strip of land.

In another case, a vacant field was used openly for gardening for over 20 years and the property owner made no effort to claim his ownership of the land. After 20 years, the person who had been growing crops on the property filed a claim for adverse possession and was granted a deed to the property.

Moral of the story: know your legal boundaries, and if you own vacant property, whether a house or open land, check on it periodically to make sure it is not being used without your permission.

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