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Caroline Knowles-Ley

Associate - Brighton & Hove

Adverse Possession of Unregistered Land

Adverse possession is a contentious area as it offers the potential for a third-party non-proprietor to claim a legal right over someone else’s land.

The Land Registration Act 2002 came into force on 13 October 2003, changing the landscape of adverse possession of registered land. So, what happens when the land is unregistered?  The ‘old regime’ remains in play where the land is unregistered meaning that you must be able to show you have adversely possessed the land for a minimum of 12 years.

The Claimant must be able to show uninterrupted factual possession of the land in that:-

  • they have been squatting on the land without the owner’s consent;
  • they have the necessary intention to possess the land;
  • that there is a sufficient degree of exclusive physical control over the land.  This will be specific to the land in question and the nature of it.  Broadly the Claimant should be dealing with the land as one might expect an owner occupier to do; and
  • that the period of possession has been continuous and uninterrupted.

However, there is the ability for the necessary period to accumulate over multiple squatters.  A statement is taken setting out each of the squatter’s use of the land over what period to bring the total period of possession to more than the required 12 years.  This is extended to 30 years for Crown land or property which is vested in the Crown or one of the Royal Duchies as ‘bona vacantia’.

It is worth noting that a period of adverse possession can be brought to an end by a signed, written acknowledgment of the paper owner’s title by the squatter as can a written offer by the squatter to purchase the land from the paper owner.  If the squatter remains in possession after the acknowledgment time may start running again but will not do so if there is a change in the relationship between the squatter and owner for example by the granting of a licence or lease.

The Process

If you believe you may have a claim for adverse possession of unregistered land, form FR1 and a statement following form ST1 must be lodged with HMLR.  If there is no objection to the application and the Registrar is satisfied that the Claimant has evidenced their right the land will be registered with a possessory title which may be converted to absolute title in time.

If the land you are concerned with is registered land please refer to our blog ‘Adverse Possession of Registered Land’ for more information.

Contact us

If you’re unsure whether your land is registered or unregistered, and are considering whether a claim for adverse possession can be made, contact Caroline Knowles-Ley, an Associate in Rix & Kay’s Dispute Resolution team for an initial assessment of your case via e. carolineknowlesley@rixandkay.co.uk or t. 01273 766917