Adverse Possession – your right to acquire land that doesn’t belong to you

22nd February 2018 | Written by Daniel Dickson

Daniel Dickson, Dispute Resolution lawyer, Brighton & Hove

Adverse possession is the process of acquiring land that doesn’t necessarily belong to you. If you have been in possession of land for a certain length of time, you maybe entitled to make an application to the Land Registry to secure rightful ownership of it.

Rix & Kay’s dedicated Dispute Resolution Team are experts in advising individuals and businesses on their rights to make adverse possession claims and can guide them through every step of the process. The team regularly advise on cases where land is either unregistered altogether or land registered with a neighbour or other third party.

Our Adverse Possession checklist provides some practical points to consider.

  1. Minimum time requirements – Before any adverse possession application can be considered you must have been using (or in possession of the land) for at least ten years. If the land is registered with someone else then the minimum time is extended to twelve years. It may be possible to use any period of adverse possession by a predecessor in title towards establishing the 10 or 12 year period.
  2. Proof of possession – You need to demonstrate that you have enjoyed uninterrupted factual possession of the land for the minimum time period. In order do show this, you will need to evidence a sufficient degree of exclusive physical control over the land. In general this means that the person in possession must have been dealing with the land as an occupying owner might have been expected to deal with it.
  3. Proof or intention – You will also need to prove that you intended to possess the land during the relevant period. In most cases, the factual circumstances of possession will demonstrate intention. However, if you are merely using the land for parking, something extra may be needed to demonstrate an intention to possess, such as enclosure of the land or the erection of car parking signs.
  4. Do you have the landowners consent? – If you have consent to use the land from the landowner then it is not possible to acquire the land through an adverse possession claim.
  5. Deliberate obstruction of land – You should be careful not to commit a criminal offence in possessing land that does not belong to you and any attempts to deliberately obstruct access to land or block public highways can jeopardise any adverse possession application.
  6. Making an application – Once you have established the relevant period, you will need to make an application to the Land Registry. The Land Registry may then write to any neighbouring properties who may have claim to the land. They may also arrange for a surveyor to inspect the land and produce a report. Should any other party wish to object to an application, they will need to make their objection in writing. If the Land Registry considers that an objection may have some merit, the matter can then be referred to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal for a determination.

Contact us

If you feel that you may have a claim for adverse possession, or alternatively have concerns about an existing application for adverse possession of land that you may have an interest in, please contact Daniel Dickson by emailing him at