Estate Planning Law Office of Attorney Joseph F. Pippen, Jr. & Associates
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Q.  Can a neighbor claim any of my property under an adverse possession law?

A.  Adverse possession is defined as the open and notorious possession and occupation of real property under an evident claim or color of right.  For example, if your neighbor has built a structure on your property and can meet the prerequisite requirements, he may claim your property by filing an adverse possession lawsuit.  The requirements for the acquisition of title by adverse possession are notoriety of possession, hostility, continuity and exclusiveness.  Each of the above will be discussed below.

            The period of time within which to make an adverse possession claim is seven years with certain exceptions.  One of the exceptions is a 20-year period from the recording of a deed or the probate of a will to convey real property, during which time no person shall assert any claim to the property against claimants under the deed or will or their successors in title.  In Florida, the common-law period of 20 years holds as to the acquisition of a prescriptive right.  In order to establish an easement by prescription, a claimant must prove actual, continuous and uninterrupted use for a period of 20 years.

HOSTILITY:  In order to establish possession you must show that the property was held adversely and hostilely for the statutory period.  Hostile in this sense is defined as possession of an exclusive right to the property.  For example, possession is not hostile or adverse if permission is given by the owner.

CONTINUOUS POSSESSION AND EXCLUSIVENESS:  The possession of the property must be continuous and uninterrupted.  In general, once adverse possession has begun it may only be interrupted by an ouster, actual or constructive.  The doctrine of tacking has been adopted in Florida, and successive possessions of several persons may be allowed if the requisite privity exists.

WHO CAN ACQUIRE TITLE?  In general, all persons, artificial as well as natural, for example, corporations and municipalities, may acquire property.  It has been held that family members may not acquire adverse possession against each other without a stronger burden of proof of a hostile holding.  Also, husband and wife cannot generally acquire land by adverse possession against the other.  The possession of a trustee is not generally adverse to making a claim under adverse possession.

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