In general, a person acquires title to property through a purchase or perhaps inheritance. It might come as a surprise to learn that, under limited circumstances, a person can acquire title to land simply by living on or possessing the land for 10 or more years.
Under Indiana law, a person can acquire a title to land through a process called adverse possession. To acquire a title by adverse possession, a person must meet all of the following elements:
- The person must be in continuous and exclusive possession of the land for 10 or more years
- The person’s possession must be adverse to the owner’s rights, meaning the person possesses the land without permission from the owner
- The person possesses the land in an open manner so that a reasonable owner would be expected to know of the person’s trespass
Lessons for landowners
A landowner should be aware of the risk of adverse possession.
If, for example, a person is living on land you own, you should either tell the person to leave or give the person permission to remain on your land. Otherwise, after 10 years, you could lose the title to the land.
Another circumstance where adverse possession comes into play is boundary disputes.
Assume your neighbor’s garage extends a few feet onto your property. Unless you either tell your neighbor to remove the garage from your land or give permission to keep the garage extending onto your land, you risk losing the title in that portion of property that your neighbor has adversely possessed.
Seek legal advice
Adverse possession is a complicated and often misunderstood legal concept.
It is important that property owners protect their interests in real estate by consulting an experienced attorney for advice any time another person is trespassing on your property. An attorney can advise of steps you can take to preserve your property rights or can assist if you find yourself adversely possessing land for 10 or more years.