Adverse possession is an area of law that every Massachusetts property owner needs to be aware of. These types of claims allow a party using another person’s property to acquire it through continuous use. If you suspect your property may be used by someone else, it is important to know how to prevent adverse possession.
Overview of Adverse Possession
Adverse possession allows a party occupying another’s property to acquire it as their own. Under such a claim, the continuous use of such property for twenty years allows users to make it their own. This doctrine of law has serious consequences for owners who neglect their property: under the right circumstances, a so-called “trespasser” can become a property owner.
Know Your Property
Adverse possession commonly occurs in a scenario where property owners do not know “who owns what.” An adverse possession claim can often arise when a property owner sincerely believes that the driveway, parking lot, or water access is their own and uses it that way for the required twenty-year period.
For this reason, it is important to know your property and learn your property boundaries through a formal land survey. Doing so will allow a property owner to know if someone else is on their land.
Consider Giving the Non-Owner Permission to Use the Subject Property
A non-occupant’s use of property is not always contentious. For example, a homeowner may learn that their neighbor’s shed encroaches several feet onto their property, on a portion of their backyard that is rarely used. The homeowner may not care that the neighbor is using this land but, understandably, does not want to lose it from a potential adverse possession claim. What can be done to prevent adverse possession?
In such a case, the homeowner may consider simply giving the non-occupant permission to use the property. A central requirement of adverse possession is that the use must be non-permissive. If the homeowner expressly gives permission to use the property, adverse possession cannot occur.
While this solution to adverse possession is fairly straightforward, it is still worth speaking to an attorney for advice on doing this properly, to avoid losing the right to retain this property if it is ever needed again.
Court Action for Trespass or Injunctive Relief
If you are not able to resolve the matter amicably, court action may become necessary. A party who feels someone else is using their property without permission can bring an action for trespass and seek injunctive relief, where a court formally orders a party to stay off property.
If you find yourself in such a scenario, it is worth speaking to an attorney on preventing adverse possession. I have helped other homeowners with similar claims and can provide the guidance necessary to resolve these tricky matters.