May 9, 2021

Adverse Possession in the UK

Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession

Have you been in the adverse possession of land or property for a number of years and would you like to claim for that land to become yours legally? Under UK law on adverse possession you may be able to.

To make a strong claim for adverse possession a specialist conveyancing solicitor can help you. You can also make the claim by yourself, however the process can be complex, and a mistake can lead to your claim being rejected outright.

In some cases, you can reapply for adverse possession after another 2 years has passed but this is not always possible.

Registered and unregistered land

The process for claiming adverse possession differs depending on the land either being registered or unregistered. If the land is registered the owner is more protected against adverse possession claims, however it is still possible to claim for adverse possession of registered land.

If you have been in the adverse possession of registered land for a period longer than 10 years and you can provide proof of this, a conveyancing solicitor can help you put forward a claim.

Initially the rules in regard to adverse possession were outlined in the Limitation Act 1980. The introduction of the Land Registration Act 2002 has in parts replaced the Limitation Act, which has to some degree changed the process of claiming adverse possession. Under the new act the registered proprietor of the land has the power to oppose and prevent claims of adverse possession.

When a claim for adverse possession of registered land is opposed

Even if the registered proprietor objects to your adverse possession claim, you still might be successful, if:

  • You can prove that the registered proprietor in some way encouraged you to believe you were the registered owner of the land, and
  • That in the belief that you were the registered owner you acted to your own detriment, for example by spending money and building on the land, and
  • That it is therefore unconscionable for you to be denied the rights to the land you thought you had

If your claim is denied but you remain in adverse possession of the land for another 2 years, then you can likely reapply after a 2-year period. If the registered proprietor has taken no action to stop you from using the land and you have continued to use it as you had prior to the initial application you would likely be successful in your claim at this stage.

If you were in adverse possession of registered land prior to the introduction of the Land Registration Act 2002 and you met the original conditions under the Limitation Act 1980 for adverse possession before 13th October 2003 then you can claim under the original regulations.

Adverse possession of unregistered land process

To claim for adverse possession of unregistered land you must have been in adverse possession for a period exceeding 12 years. There won’t be a registered proprietor that could oppose and prevent you from claiming adverse possession, however other person’s with interest in the land will be notified and they will be given the ability to object.