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District of Columbia Adverse Possession Laws

A state's adverse possession law allows individuals to obtain legal title to a parcel of property owned by another if they openly inhabit the property for a certain period of time. While it may seem strange that a "squatter" can legally obtain someone else's land, these laws are set up in a way that gives the rightful owner plenty of time in which to act. These laws typically are invoked when resolving property boundary disputes, or to obtain official title to a property when one exists (such as when homes are passed down from generation to generation).

Washington, D.C. Adverse Possession Law at a Glance

Details about claiming property under the District of Columbia's adverse possession law are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Land Use Laws section for more related articles and resources.

Code Section 16-1113, 16-3301
Defense of Adverse Possession: Statutory Summary
In an action to recover vacant and unimproved lots of ground it is not necessary, in order to maintain the defense of adversary possession, to show that the premises in controversy had been enclosed; but if it appears that the property had been assessed for taxation to the defendant, or those under whom he claims, and that he or they had regularly paid the taxes on the property and were the only persons who had exercised control over the property for a period of 15 years before the bringing of the action, the facts shall be the equivalent of possession by actual enclosure.
Time Period Required for Occupation 15 yrs.
Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability With disability: max. 22 yrs.; After disability lifted: 2 yrs.
Improvements -
Payment of Taxes -
Correction of Title After Adverse Possession Claim

When title to real property in the District of Columbia has become vested in a person by adverse possession, the holder thereof may file a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to have the title perfected. In the complaint, it is sufficient to allege that the plaintiff holds the title to the property, and that it has vested in him, or in himself and in those under whom he claims, by adverse possession.

In the action, it is not necessary to make any person a party defendant except those persons who appear to have a claim or title adverse to that of the plaintiff. Upon the trial of the cause, proof of the facts showing title in the plaintiff by adverse possession entitles him to decree of the court declaring his title by adverse possession, and a copy of the decree may be entered of record in the office of the Recorder of Deeds for the District.

Note: State laws are subject to change at any time, usually when newly signed legislation is enacted but sometimes through the decisions of higher courts or other means. You may want to contact a District of Columbia land use and zoning attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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