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Georgia Adverse Possession Laws

An individual who takes possession of an otherwise neglected piece of real estate owned by someone else, and improves it, may acquire title to the property under adverse possession laws. To be eligible, the person acquiring the property must do so publicly and pay property taxes or otherwise act as though he or she already has the right to possess it. Georgia adverse possession laws require 20 years of occupation in order to claim title.

Adverse possession laws are commonly referred to as "squatters' rights" laws, since they often are invoked by squatters who inhabit land or structures otherwise left unused. The term "adverse" refers to the fact that those claiming land are doing so against the interests of the actual title holders. So why is it legal?

Essentially, adverse possession allows those who have trespassed continuously to claim title if the true title holder fails to take action within the statute of limitations. Since the true land owner cannot take legal action to remove the squatter after this period, then it makes sense to simply give up title. In other words, the land owner's non-action to remove a trespasser is akin to surrendering the property.

The trespasser, in order to claim land under adverse possession law, must meet the following conditions:

  1. Be in actual possession of the property (must physically use the property as the true owner would, such as maintaining and repairing the property)
  2. Be "non-permissive, hostile, or adverse use" of the property (court will consider the facts of each case)
  3. Use property in an "open and notorious" way (those who sneak around or otherwise try to conceal their use of the property do not qualify)
  4. Continuously use the property (as opposed to "claiming" it but not sticking around for the duration of the statute of limitations)
  5. Exclusive use (in other words, the "true" owner does not use the property throughout the statutory period)

Learn more about Georgia adverse possession laws in the following chart.

Code Section 44-5-161, et seq.
Time Period Required for Occupation 20 yrs.and Color of Title: 7 yrs.
Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability Prescriptive period does not run until disability removed.
Improvements -
Payment of Taxes -
Title from Tax Assessor -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Georgia real estate attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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