Claims in relation to adverse possession of land (colloquially referred to as squatting) are common. Each year HM Land Registry receives tens of thousands of applications based in whole or in part on adverse possession. These may be in respect of adverse possession of registered land or adverse possession of unregistered land. Many cases are disputed and are the subject of court proceedings or hearings before the Adjudicator of the Land Registry. Persons claiming land are successful in supplanting the previous owners in over 50 per cent of cases. Some of the land involved is of great value. In most cases the land is residential but it can also be commercial or agricultural. In many cases an adverse possession case may involve a boundary dispute.
The normal rule is that if there is adverse possession for 10 or 12 years (the actual period depends on a number of factors) the owner of the paper title will not be able to recover the land and the possessor will be entitled to have the land registered in his name.
Timing is very important in these cases for both the paper title owners and the possessors. In order not to lose their entitlement to recover their land the owners (if they are aware that they are at risk) may need to make possession claims to stop time running against them. On the other hand, during the limitation period, the possessors will not want to take any step that will alert the owners to the position.
As adverse possession solicitors we provide pre-action advice, including advice on the evidence required to support or defend a claim for adverse possession; our adverse possession practice also includes advice on the relative merits of the court or the Land Registry as forums for resolving a dispute; and, of course, as it is usually desirable to settle rather than to litigate we offer advice on cost protection, negotiation and mediation. In the event that it is necessary to take a dispute to a hearing we have substantial experience in preparing for hearings in all forums. We also have close connections with members of the property bar who are experienced in adverse possession cases.