Diane Barnes gives a brief guide to adverse possession and explains why it's important to register your land.
Every landowner should ensure that they check their deeds to ensure that their title deeds agree with what they believe they own.
It is unfortunately often the case, particularly with large landholdings, that deeds for a particular parcel of land are lacking: the paper deeds may have gone astray; the title boundary may not reflect the position on the ground; there may be an error in the title deeds which means title is not held as expected.
The law seeks to protect land from becoming abandoned – if a third party has been in occupation of land for a long period of time and treated it as their own, without the legal owner coming forward to object, then the third party occupier is entitled to apply to become the registered owner at the Land Registry, by way of adverse possession, if they meet various criteria.
The position is more difficult where the land in question has already been registered at the Land Registry by the paper title owner.
In such a case, the registered owner is given notice of the adverse possession application, and a chance to object or take possession proceedings, so the adverse possession application is in that case, somewhat of a gamble.
Often the Land Registry will inspect the land in question to see whether the application is founded and will give notice to adjoining registered owners, giving them chance to object if they have a good legal reason to do so i.e. they are the paper title owner.
Make sure your land is properly registered
All landowners should take steps to make sure that their land is properly registered at the Land Registry – both to deal with any issues caused by erroneous or missing title deeds in good time – and to safeguard their land from third party claims.
Landowners should contact their solicitor to ask them to carry out an audit of their deeds.
For more information of land registration or adverse possesion, contact Diane Barnes here.
About the author
Senior Associate Diane specialises in agricultural land and property sales.