Home is a safe place. It’s a haven where you relax, unwind and refuel. It’s a place to host friends, or raise a family. It’s an investment that symbolizes your livelihood. You would protect it with everything you have. That’s why adverse possession is worth knowing about.
Stealing property sounds like something that would only happen in the Wild West. But it’s entirely realistic. While it’s unlikely for a stranger to illegally live on your land and then try to claim it, adverse possession can literally happen in your own back yard.
What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession allows a trespasser to legally obtain a title to someone else’s land. To pursue that, the trespasser must develop a rightful claim to ownership of that property. This predicament often occurs when neighbors build onto another person’s property, such as putting up a fence or paving a driveway paved over the legal boundaries. Years later, you might hire a professional to do a survey and discover what’s happening.
State statues and Michigan courts regulate adverse possession laws. To help protect property owners, the law requires the trespasser to prove they have ownership.
A variety of factors come into play, such as:
- Hostile. Your neighbor possessed the land without yourpermission.
- Actual. Your neighbor exercised control over the property, whether they were using it, maintaining it or living on it.
- Exclusive. Your neighbor is the only one in possession of the property.
- Open and notorious. Your neighbor used the property as if he/she owned it, and did so publicly.
- Continuous. Under Michigan laws, they must being continuous in their possession for at least 15 years.
What happens next?
Despite many different scenarios, adverse possession is meant to protect the person who honestly believed they owned the land in the first place. If you notice your neighbor builds a tool shed and it encroaches on your property, but you don’t say anything for a decade or so, then it may look like consent.
But what if you notice right away? Then you should act on it immediately. Waiting could be a disadvantage. You can speak up about the matter, and ask them to stop using your land. If they refuse, it’s important to take legal action to protect your property.