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Home > Blog > Real Estate > Adverse Possession Dos and Don’ts

Adverse Possession Dos and Don’ts


Somewhere in one of the five boroughs, there is a vacant lot next to some warehouses, or at least there used to be when you were a kid.  When your uncle would drive past it with you, he would say that the lot belongs to him, and one day he is going to build something on it.  Sometimes his project would be a baseball stadium, and otherwise a luxury hotel, but the fact remains that the land only belongs to your uncle in his dreams.  In some states, if he found the money to start building on the land, and the building turned into a lucrative business, your uncle could conceivably argue that the land belonged to him, but not in New York.  Using a piece of land and claiming possession of it, even when you do not have clear title to the land, is called adverse possession.  It is not adverse possession if you acknowledge that you do not own the land, and the owner gives you permission to use it; that is a landlord-tenant relationship.  For help resolving disputes related to adverse possession of land, contact a Bronx real estate attorney.

How to Claim Adverse Possession of Land

The term “adverse” sounds more adversarial than it is; it might be better to call it de facto possession of land.  You can claim adverse possession of land if you have been openly and continuously using the land for at least ten years.  You cannot simply tell yourself or others that you own it; instead, you must live on it or build on it.  Adverse possession is not being a temporary squatter and making yourself scarce when the police show up.  If you want to claim adverse possession, build a house or pitch a tent, and even better, decorate it colorfully and post signs.  This way, if someone else wants to claim that you have no business using the land, you can say, “Where were you for the past ten years?”

In New York, you must have color of title to the land if you want to claim adverse possession.  This means that you must have documents that claim that you owe the land, even if there are legal ambiguities about how you came to own it.  You must also pay taxes on the land if you are claiming adverse possession.

How to Stop Someone Else From Claiming Adverse Possession of Your Land

The easiest way to prevent others from claiming adverse possession of your land is to visit all the land you own frequently.  If someone else is using your land without your permission, bring the matter to court sooner rather than later.  If there are questions about whether you legitimately own the land, you should file a quiet title action.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Bronx Real Estate Attorney

A real estate lawyer can help you if you are trying to claim adverse possession of a piece of previously unoccupied land.  Contact Cavallo & Cavallo in the Bronx, New York to set up a consultation.

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