DEFINITION of 'Adverse Possession'

A principle of real estate law that allows a person who possesses someone else's land for an extended period of time to claim legal title to that land. Land claimed under adverse possession does not require the claimant to pay for that land, but does require that the claimant prove that the land possession is actual, open and notorious, exclusive, hostile or adverse and continuous.

BREAKING DOWN 'Adverse Possession'

Regulations surrounding adverse possession can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and the definitions of the legal requirements are open to interpretation. Adverse possession is sometimes called "squatter's rights". This is because in some jurisdictions if a person occupies another person's land for a certain period of time (without paying rent) and the owner takes no legal action to remove that person, he or she can gain legal title to the property. In most cases, the squatter must occupy the land for an extended period of time, such as 15 to 20 years.

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