The concept of adverse possession isn’t one that comes up much outside of a law school classroom. That is, until you find yourself on the wrong end of an adverse possession claim. Since litigation is something you want to avoid, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the law, so that you’re not caught off guard.
What is the doctrine?
Adverse possession has been around for a long time – it’s a legal doctrine that exists to help ensure that land is put to good use. It does so by rewarding someone who would otherwise be a trespasser, by giving them a title to land they have used for an extended period without objection by the owner. The owner, therefore, is punished for not being sufficiently mindful about their property and how it is used.
What are the requirements?
Although the doctrine may seem draconian at first blush, the requirements a trespasser must meet are not at all easy. First, their use of your property must be hostile to your interests. A common example, for instance, would be for a neighboring business to build a fence and place it on your property – hostile to your ownership rights.
The trespass must also be open and notorious. A fence built 15 feet onto your property would be obvious and easy to see; a water line buried under the ground would not. Perhaps the most difficult hurdle to clear is the length of time the trespass must occur. Arizona mandates that the trespass be continuous, for ten years, before the trespasser can make a claim through adverse possession.
Acquiring commercial property through adverse possession is not easy. A watchful property owner will identify the encroachment early and defeat the claim before it becomes an issue. But if you find yourself subject to such a claim, speak to an attorney who is experienced in Arizona real estate laws. They can help you untangle the claim and defend against it.