Your rights to apply for ownership of land that you have occupied under the principle of “adverse possession” largely depend upon the timing of your claim and whether the land over which you are claiming adverse possession is “registered” or “unregistered”.
Procedure for claiming adverse possession of registered land
In summary, if the property is registered, i.e. if details of the land have been recorded at the Land Registry (which tends to be the case if the property has changed hands since 1990) then adverse possession (in effect, occupying or treating the land as your own) of the land for 12 years of itself will no longer entitle you to be registered as the owner. Instead, after 10 years’ adverse possession, the occupier will be entitled to apply to the Land Registry to be registered as the proprietor (i.e. owner) in place of the registered proprietor of the land.
Upon making such an application, the Land Registry will contact the registered proprietor giving them an opportunity to oppose the application. If the application is unopposed, the Land Registry will register the applicant as the proprietor in place of the registered proprietor. On the other hand, if the application is opposed, the application for Adverse Possession will be rejected unless:
it would be unfair for the registered proprietor to seek to dispossess the applicant because of a prior representation made to the applicant, and the applicant ought in the circumstances to be registered as proprietor;
the applicant is for some other reason entitled to be registered as proprietor; or
the applicant has been in adverse possession of land adjacent to their own under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it, the exact line of the boundary with this adjacent land has not been determined and the estate to which the application relates was registered more than a year prior to the date of the application;.
If the 10 year application is rejected but the occupier then remains in adverse possession of the property for a further 2 years, they will then be able, subject to certain exceptions, to re-apply to Land Registry to be registered as the proprietor of that land. At that stage, the Land Registry will register the occupier as owner of that property regardless of whether anyone opposes the application.
Procedure for claiming adverse possession of unregistered land
For an unregistered property, in order to successfully apply to the Land Registry to be registered as the owner of land that the applicant has previously occupied, the applicant must prove:
factual possession of the land i.e.that the applicant has been in physical possession of the land;
that the applicant had the necessary intention to possess the land;
that the applicant's possession is without the owner’s consent; and
that all of the above have been true of the applicant (including any predecessors) for at least 12 years prior to the date of the application.
In the majority of cases, we are able to tell you within minutes and for a nominal fee if land is “registered.” Our specialist solicitors will also be able to advise you through every stage of the adverse possession process.