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Adverse Possession laws - Information on the law about Adverse Possession - Requirements

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationState Laws and Statutes

The doctrine of "adverse possession" is one of the most interesting in the field of real property law. The character of the law reflects the pioneer spirit of a growing world in both North America and Europe over the last few centuries.

If a person moves into possession of property, improves it and possesses it in a public manner, then after a certain amount of time he will acquire title to the property even though it is actually owned by someone else. The idea for adverse possession has at its root that land should not lie idle. If it does, it is wasted to the community. Therefore, if someone moves onto the land and makes it productive, that person may earn the right to claim it as his or her own. It is also reflective of the imprecise nature of ancient land sales: a person who believes he owns land, establishes himself on it in public, and is not hindered after a period of time, should be entitled to own the land.

Requirements

The basic requirement for adverse possession is that the claiming party must take exclusive possession of the property. This type of possession is called "open and notorious" or proactive and absolutely not secretive possession. Some states require that the possession be "under color of title," or that the person must believe that he has the right to possess it and has some form of document or is relying on some fact that while not actually conveying title, appears to do so. In addition, many states require concurrent the payment of property taxes for a specified period of time, and a few states also require that improvements be made upon the land. Eventually, the possessor is required to file for title with the county recorder. The actual owner then has a limited amount of time in which to challenge the newcomer's title. Essentially, the owner's only argument is to claim some sort of disability; such as age, mental instability, or imprisonment. The owner is not required to do much in order to stop the possessor from acquiring title; merely sending the possessor a note granting permission to be there will usually suffice. Various rules exist regarding the continuousness of the possession and the ability to "tack" various periods of possession together in order to satisfy the time of possession requirement; see your state codes or the code of the state in which you are interested for more detailed information.

Table 41: Adverse Possession

State Code Section Prescriptive Period Occupation Time to Challenge Improvements Payment of Taxes Title from Tax Assessor
ALABAMA 6-5-200 20 yrs. Bradley v. Demos 599 So.2d 1148 and Color of Title: 10 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs.     10 yrs. required  
ALASKA 09.45.052   and Color of Title: 7 yrs.     Not required but is considered proof Alaska Nat. Bank v. Linck 559 P.2d 1049  
ARIZONA 12-522 et seq. 2 yrs. (if occupied with no claim to title) and Color of Title: 3 yrs. or 5 yrs. if city lot 3 yrs. after cause of action arrives Taxes plus cultivation: 5 yrs.; Cultivation only: 10 yrs. 5 consecutive yrs. before suit to recover  
ARKANSAS 18-61-101, 18-11-101 et seq. 7 yrs. Can't eject after 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 3 yrs.   7 successive years; 15 yrs. consecutively for wild and unimproved land creates presumption of color of title  
CALIFORNIA Civ. Proc. §§318, 325, 328   and Payment of Taxes: 5 yrs. With disability: 20 yrs.; After disability lifted: 5 yrs.   5 years required  
COLORADO 38-41-101, et seq. 18 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs. After disability lifted: 2 yrs.   7 years  
CONNECTICUT 52-575 15 yrs.   After disability lifted: 5 yrs.      
DELAWARE Tit. 10 §§7901, et seq. 20 yrs.   After disability lifted: 10 yrs.      
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 16-1113, 16-3301 15 yrs.   With disability: max. 22 yrs.; After disability lifted: 2 yrs.      
FLORIDA 95.16, 18, 191, 192   and Color of Title: 7 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs.   One way to possess land 7 yrs. 4 yrs.

Table 41: Adverse Possession—Continued

State Code Section Prescriptive Period Occupation Time to Challenge Improvements Payment of Taxes Title from Tax Assessor
GEORGIA 44-5-161, et seq. 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs. Prescriptive period does not run until disability removed.      
HAWAII 657-31.5, et seq.; 669-1 20 yrs.   After disability lifted: 5 yrs.      
IDAHO 5-203, et seq.   and Color of Title: 5 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 5 yrs. Taxes plus cultivation 5 years Required  
ILLINOIS 735 ILCS 5/13-101, et seq. 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs. After disability lifted: 2 yrs.     7 yrs.
INDIANA 32-21-7-1 et seq.; 34-11-1-2 10 yrs. (15 yrs. if cause of action arose before Sept. 1, 1982)   After disability lifted: 2 yrs.   Required  
IOWA 614.8, 17, 560.2 Within 1 year (after 7/1/80) and Color of Title/Payment of taxes; 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 1 yr. With occupancy, one way to possess land    
KANSAS 60-503, et seq. 15 yrs.   With disability: max. 23 yrs.; After disability lifted: 2 yrs.      
KENTUCKY 413.010, .060, .020 15 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs. After disability lifted: 3 yrs.      
LOUISIANA C.C. Art. 3473, et seq. 10 yrs. and Color of Title: 10 yrs.        
MAINE Tit. 14 §§801, et seq. 20 yrs. and Color of Title/payment of taxes: 20 years After disability lifted: 10 yrs. notwithstanding 20 yrs. have expired   Required on uncultivated lands in unincorporated areas  
MARYLAND Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-103, 201 20 yrs.   After disability lifted: 3 yrs.      
MASSACHUSETTS 260§21 20 yrs.          
MICHIGAN §600.5801, 5851 15 yrs.   After disability lifted: 1 yr.     10 years
MINNESOTA 541.02, 15 15 yrs. and payment of taxes for 5 consecutive years With disability: 5 yrs. (except for infancy); After disability lifted: 1 yr.      

Table 41: Adverse Possession—Continued

State Code Section Prescriptive Period Occupation Time to Challenge Improvements Payment of Taxes Title from Tax Assessor
MISSISSIPPI 15-1-7, 13, 15 10 yrs. and Color of Title: 10 years and Payment of Taxes: 2 years With disability: 31 yrs.; After disability lifted: 10 yrs.   2 yrs. 3 yrs. after 2 yrs. from day of sale by tax collector
MISSOURI 516.010, .030 10 yrs.   After disability lifted: 3 yrs., max. 21 yrs.      
MONTANA 70-19-401, 411, 413 5 yrs. and Color of Title: 5 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 5 yrs.   Required  
NEBRASKA 25-202, 213 10 yrs.   With disability: 20 yrs.; After disability lifted: 10 yrs.      
NEVADA 11.070, 110, 150, 180 5 yrs. and Color of Title: 5 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 2 yrs.   Required  
NEW HAMPSHIRE 508:2, 3 20 yrs.   After disability lifted: 5 yrs.      
NEW JERSEY 2A:14-30 to 32; 2A:62-2 30 yrs. or 60 yrs. if woodland and Color of Title: 30 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 5 yrs. After disability lifted: 5 yrs.      
NEW MEXICO 37-1-22 10 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs. After disability lifted: 1 yr.   Required  
NEW YORK Real Prop. Acts & Procedures 501, et seq. 10 yrs. and Color of Title: 10 yrs.   One way to possess land    
NORTH CAROLINA 1-38, et seq.; 1-17 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs. After disability lifted: 3 yrs.      
NORTH DAKOTA 28-01-04, et seq.; 47-06-03 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 20 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs. After disability lifted: 10 yrs. One way to possess land 10 yrs.  
OHIO 2305.04 21 yrs.   With disability: 21 yrs.; After disability lifted: 10 yrs.      
OKLAHOMA 12§93, 94 15 yrs.   After disability lifted: 2 yrs.     5 yrs.

Table 41: Adverse Possession—Continued

State Code Section Prescriptive Period Occupation Time to Challenge Improvements Payment of Taxes Title from Tax Assessor
OREGON 12.050, 160 10 yrs.   With disability: 5 yrs.; After disability lifted: 1 yr.      
PENNSYLVANIA Tit. 42§5530 21 yrs.          
RHODE ISLAND 34-7-1, et seq. 10 yrs.   After disability lifted: 10 yrs.      
SOUTH CAROLINA 15-67-210, et seq. 10 yrs. and Color of Title: 10 yrs.   One way to possess land    
SOUTH DAKOTA 15-3-1, et seq. 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 20 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs. With disability: 20 yrs.; After disability lifted: 10 yrs. One way to possess land    
TENNESSEE 28-2-101, et seq. 7 yrs.   After disability lifted: 3 yrs.   20 yrs.  
TEXAS Civ. Prac. & Rem. §16.024, et seq. 10 yrs. and Color of Title: 3 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of taxes: 5 yrs With disability: 25 yrs. Taxes plus cultivation: 5 yrs.; Cultivation only: 10 yrs. Required  
UTAH 78-12-7, 12 7 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs.   Cultivation only: 7 yrs. Required  
VERMONT Tit. 12 §501 15 yrs.          
VIRGINIA 8.01-236, 237 15 yrs. and Color of Title: 15 yrs With disability: 25 yrs. max.      
WASHINGTON 7.28.050, et seq. 7 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs. After disability lifted: 3 yrs.   Required  
WEST VIRGINIA 55-2-1, 3 10 yrs.   After disability lifted: 5 yrs.      
WISCONSIN 893.16, 25 to 27 20 yrs. and Color of Title: 10 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs. With disability: 5 yrs., except when due to insanity or imprisonment. After disability lifted: 2 yrs. One way to prove possession.    
WYOMING 1-3-103, 104 10 yrs.   After disability lifted: 10 yrs.      

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