From Trespasser to Owner: Adverse Possession Essentials

When it comes to property rights, it’s important to know what you’re entitled to and how to protect your interests. But what happens when someone starts using your land without your permission? That’s where the doctrine of adverse possession comes in, also known as squatters’ rights. This legal principle allows someone to acquire ownership of land if they use it openly and continuously for a period of time, usually several years, without the true owner’s permission. In this primer, we’ll unlock the secrets of why do squatters have rightsand explain how to avoid falling victim to them.

First, it’s important to understand what adverse possession requires. To claim adverse possession, the squatter must use the land in a way that puts the true owner on notice that someone else is occupying it. This means the squatter must use the land openly, without attempting to conceal their use, and continuously, meaning they can’t simply come and go. The length of time required for adverse possession varies by state, but is typically at least five to ten years.

Second, adverse possession can only be claimed against land that is “unfenced, uncultivated, unoccupied, and not protected by any safeguard, such as a lock,” according to a leading legal expert. This means that if you have a fence around your property, or you occupy it yourself, or you have taken reasonable steps to protect it, adverse possession may not be available to the squatter. However, this also means that simply leaving land unused does not protect it from adverse possession.

Third, it’s important to recognize the signs of squatters’ rights. If you have a piece of land that you don’t use, check it regularly for signs of unauthorized use. This could include footpaths, trash, camping gear, or even a makeshift shelter. If you notice any of these signs, act quickly to investigate and if necessary, take legal action to protect your property rights.

Fourth, if you’re concerned about adverse possession, there are steps you can take to prevent it. In some states, posting “No Trespassing” signs or installing fences can help protect your property rights. However, it’s important to note that these measures may not be sufficient if the squatter can prove that their use of the land was open and continuous, even if you took some steps to protect it.

Finally, if you believe someone is attempting to claim adverse possession of your land, seek legal help immediately. An experienced real estate attorney can help you navigate the complex legal issues involved in adverse possession and help you protect your property rights.


Squatters’ rights, or adverse possession, can be a complicated and frustrating legal issue for property owners. However, with a little knowledge and some proactive steps, you can protect yourself from the possibility of losing your land to someone who is using it without your permission. If you have concerns about adverse possession, consult with a real estate attorney for guidance and assistance in protecting your property rights.

Back To Top