What to do if your client asks if they can claim Adverse Possession?
So, when somebody asks you, can I claim adverse possession? Really, there are two questions that you should come back with: First, what is the land status? Then, if it is Land Titles Qualified, you ask, what is the date of conversion? Only once you have that information can you really give any advice or any counsel to your client.
So where do we find out where the land status is, and where do we find out where the date of conversion is? It's the Parcel Register. We think it’s possibly the most important document that you can acquire on the listing side and the buying side to help your client understand the property better, and ensure that A) they're getting the right property, B) that the people who are selling it are actually the ones on title and C) understanding adverse possession.
There's are many other benefits as well, but this is where you get your two most important pieces of information when it comes to adverse possession.
How do you know what the status of the land is? On this parcel register, top left. So the next question is, what was the date of conversion? It's in the bottom left.
Say for example if says October 22, 2001. What does this mean? Let's bring it into the real world. It means that your pivot point for an adverse possession claim is October the 22nd, 2001. That means from October 22nd, 2001 till today and into the future, no adverse possession claim can be made. But it also means that if somebody can prove continuous and uninterrupted use of that portion of land for 10 years prior to that, so from October 22nd, 1991 to October 22nd, 2001, then they've met at least the basic threshold to qualify to make an adverse possession claim.
It's difficult to prove it in a court of law. And so, what we're finding is that as fewer and fewer adverse possession claims go through successfully. As we get further away from that date of conversion, it becomes harder and harder to prove that 10 years of uninterrupted use prior to the date of conversion. What we're finding is fewer, fewer good lawyers who will take on adverse possession claims. So when your client comes to you all excited that they can make an adverse possession claim, maybe you can douse a little bit of cold water on it and say, listen, it's not that easy.
So, let's look at a real example, another aspect to the real example. Your client comes to you and says, my neighbor is coming after me, telling me that they have used this property for 20 years, or a piece of my property at the back for 20 years, and they're going to claim adverse possession - squatter's rights - over it. And your client's going to probably come to you freaking out, right? So, you first say, all right, 20 years, it's 2020, that goes back to the year 2000. Got it. 2020. So, let's go back and let's look at the parcel register here for this property. We know that it is a Land Titles Qualified, so, yes, there is the opportunity for an adverse possession claim, but we also see that the date of conversion was October 22nd, 2001. What we would have to show is continuous and uninterrupted use for a period of 10 years prior to this date. We would have to show from 1991 onwards, from October 22nd, 1991. The mental math I just did a minute ago was, how far back does 20 years take us from today? Because the neighbor is claiming a 20-year occupancy of that particular piece of property. Well, 20 years takes us back to the year 2000, right? Because we're in 2020 now. So where is 2000 in relation to the date of conversion, well, it was converted in 2001, so what that means is that, in terms of the qualification, the qualifying ability, it means that the next door neighbor can only prove continuous and uninterrupted use for a period of one year prior to the date of conversion.