Adverse possession is the use of someone else's property for long enough that it legally becomes your own. In Massachusetts, property can pass from one person to another if:
- The use is continuous and lasts for 20 years,
- The use is readily apparent,
- The real owner has not consented, and
- The use is physical and exclusive to one party.
Property owners who do not inspect their premises or who have only a vague understanding of their boundary lines are susceptible to losing their property through adverse possession.
How Does Adverse Possession Work in Massachusetts?
Because adverse possession is a state law, the details will differ from state to state. In Massachusetts, a party can acquire legal ownership of property to someone else's property if they can show that:
- They have been using it for 20 years,
- The use was “open and notorious,”
- The true owner never consented, and
- Their use of the property was exclusive and physical.
Two of these points are worth breaking down.
20 Years of Continuous Use
The most difficult element of adverse possession is the length of time that it takes for legal ownership to pass to the adverse possessor. 20 years is a long period of time, and the adverse possession has to be continual – it is not enough to periodically come by and spend time on the property.
However, different adverse possessors can combine their time on the property to meet the 20-year requirement.
Open and Notorious Use
The adverse possessor's use of the property cannot be hidden. Instead, they have to be apparent enough that, if the owner saw them and knew the extent of their property, they would be put on notice that someone was using what he owned.
This often requires things like buildings or fences.
What is the Point of Adverse Possession?
Massachusetts law allows people to gain rightful and legal ownership of someone else's property through adverse possession in order to incentivize owners to use their land, or give it to non-owners who would actually put the property to good use.
Adverse possession is one of the most shocking points of law for many property owners. They think that, once they have bought property, it will remain theirs, forever. While it is very difficult to gain legal ownership of property through adverse possession, it is not impossible.
Massachusetts Adverse Possession Attorneys at the Katz Law Group
Adverse possession became a hot topic in Massachusetts recently when the Massachusetts Appeals Court found, in Miller v. Abramson, that a neighbor had successfully acquired property through adverse possession by mowing the lawn and trimming trees and shrubs in property that they thought they owned. Since this case, many landowners in the state have become concerned that they might lose slivers of their yards to their neighbors.
The neighbor dispute lawyers at the Katz Law Group can help you protect your property rights from adverse possession attempts. Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202 for help in Worcester, Marlborough, Framingham, or the rest of Massachusetts.