A Guide to Adverse Possession

Shot using a drone shows an upscale suburbs houses and roof tops - adverse possession concept

Disputes between neighbors may seem inevitable. But in North Dakota and Minnesota, boundary disputes have turned ugly as landowners accuse the government of moving boundary line markers, and property owners are being charged thousands of dollars to correct situations that have existed on properties for decades. In an extreme case, a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives even had his garage sawed in two over a property line dispute. 

Some of these boundary-line disputes could have been avoided by working with a lawyer, conducting a boundary-line survey, and negotiating to reach an amicable resolution. But in extreme cases, it might be worth considering the viability of a claim of adverse possession. 

Using Adverse Possession to Establish Ownership

Adverse possession laws allow a person to take possession of a piece of land and if they have lived there for a specific length of time, have made improvements to the property, and/or have paid property taxes, they can acquire full legal title to the property.  

To establish a claim of adverse possession, the individual claiming adverse possession the claimant must typically satisfy five elements:

  1. Continuous possession. They must continuously occupy the land for 20 years. If they have been paying property taxes and have a copy of the title, that time period is reduced to 10 years. 
  2. Exclusive possession. They must be in exclusive control of the property. They cannot share the property with others or the property owner themselves. 
  3. Open and notorious. They cannot hide the fact that they are squatting on the property. Anyone, including the owner, must be able to tell that the individual is living on the property.  
  4. Actual possession. They must treat the property like an owner would. They should be able to show proof of efforts to improve the property, such as performing regular maintenance and cleaning up the property. 
  5. Hostile claim. They do not need to know the identity of the property owner. Instead, they simply need to possess the property for the requisite amount of time. 

When a landowner successfully claims adverse possession, they take legal ownership of the disputed land. 

How a Lawyer Can Help Resolve a Boundary-Line Dispute

When you work with the real estate lawyers at Fremstad Law, we will carefully analyze your situation to fully understand the nature of the boundary-line dispute and suggest possible solutions. In some cases, there might be a simple misunderstanding about the location of the boundary line that can be resolved through a careful analysis of a land survey. In others, the most efficient and cost-effective solution might be an amicable resolution through a settlement. And in some cases, resolution can only be had through a lawsuit.

Regardless of your circumstances, we will request information about the property and its legal description. We will carefully analyze legal issues such as when the alleged encroachment began, applicable state and local laws, and the applicability of trespassing claims, zoning issues, nuisance laws, and more.  

Fremstad Law has decades of experience litigating boundary-line disputes and stands ready to be your advocate. We will help you evaluate the cost of the land versus the expense of litigation and will protect your financial interests while working for the best outcome in your case.   

Fremstad Law: Moving You Forward

If you need assistance resolving a boundary-line dispute, the attorneys at Fremstad Law are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation with our real estate lawyers to discuss your situation and how we can move you forward.