What to Know About Adverse Possession in Missouri
How to Avoid Adverse Possession
What Constitutes Adverse Possession and More in Missouri
You might not recognize immediately what adverse possession is, but I bet you have heard of squatter's rights. Adverse possession is the legal term for what is commonly referred to as squatter's rights, in which a person can make a legal claim to YOUR property if they have lived there for long enough without their claim being contested. We'll go over the specifics on adverse possession, what it takes to make a claim, and what you can do to protect yourself from any "squatters" on your property.
What Exactly is Adverse Possession?
As mentioned above, adverse possession is a legal concept that describes the instance in which a trespasser gains legal title over land that is not theirs. This can happen in a number of ways, and the definition of "trespasser" is taken very literally, as most instances of adverse possession occur between neighbors. Say, for example, a neighbor constructs a BBQ pit in the backyard of his home, what he doesn't know, and what you might not even realize, is that he has actually built that pit on your property. If you didn't say anything about it, and time passes, the government might rule in the favor of the neighbor that the slice of property the pit is on is now theirs, since they have been taking care of it for a length of time, and you have not.
What Constitutes Adverse Possession?
So what actually constitutes adverse possession? Each case is determined on a case-by-case basis, and there is no exact definition of what is required for an adverse possession claim in Missouri. The following, however, are typically what is required to make a legitimate adverse possession claim.
- Hostile: The possession must be against the rights of the true owner, and without their explicit permission, regardless of whether it is an actual "hostile" act.
- Exclusive: The trespasser has to be the sole person in possession of the property they are on.
- Actual: Exercising control over the property, additionally, the trespasser needs to be open and notorious about their possession, not attempting to hide it in any sort of way.
- Continuous: As mentioned above, the trespasser needs to be in possession of the property longer than the statute of limitations in which the legal owner of the property could force them off. The statute of limitations in this instance is 10 years.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Adverse Possession Claims
Now that you're more familiar with what adverse possession is, and how a claim can be formed against you, it's time to talk about what you can do to protect yourself. Firstly, similar to our example above, there are plenty of instances in which adverse possession can occur in a completely non-malicious manner. You can protect yourself from instances like in the example, and from more malicious trespassers by clearly marking the boundaries of your property, either with fencing or signs that clearly indicate the limits of your property. Additionally, you can routinely check your property to find any instances of trespassers, and call the police or a lawyer in order to have them lawfully removed. Additionally, you can request action to quiet title, which is a legal proceeding in order to clear up any disputes on your title, which would effectively eliminate any claim a trespasser would have on the land that you rightfully own.
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