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What is adverse possession?

Adverse possession is the process whereby a person who is not the legal owner of land can become the legal owner by possessing that land for a period of time set by law. Stories of squatters deliberately entering onto land, residing there for a number of years and then claiming it as their own are sometimes reported. However, whilst this scenario does occasionally occur, most acts of adverse possession are more subtle. A more common example may be where someone has always believed they own a section of land, for example, at the end of their garden (perhaps because the boundary was not fenced) and they therefore always treated it as their own.  If it later transpires that the land in question belongs to somebody else, the owner of the garden may have obtained ownership of it by virtue of their adverse possession if they have possessed it for the requisite period of time. Another example could be where a person knows that the land is not theirs, for example, because they occupy the land under a licence, but the licence expired and the person remains on the land and tends to the land for the minimum period of time required by law.

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