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Kentucky Adverse Possession Laws

We generally think of real estate as being ours unless someone buys it from us. However, under a legal concept known as “adverse possession,” a person can trespass for so long that he or she gains a right of ownership. This can be scary prospect for anyone who has a large parcel of land, or a smaller piece they don’t visit often. So how do adverse possession laws work in the Bluegrass State? Here's an introduction to adverse possession laws in Kentucky.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

Though somewhat obscure, the idea of "adverse possession" is a fairly old legal doctrine, designed to encourage landowners to use their land or keep an eye on it if and when they weren’t using it. If a trespasser openly inhabits and improves the property for a determined amount of time (while meeting some other specific conditions) he or she may be allowed to gain legal title to property. Under Kentucky law, an individual must occupy property for at least 15 years before the possibility of ownership.

Adverse Possession in Kentucky

The table below highlights the specifics of Kentucky’s adverse possession statutes.

Code Section

Kentucky Revised Statutes 413.010, et seq: Actions Relating to Real Property

Time Period Required for Occupation

15 yrs. and Color of Title: 7 yrs.

Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability

After disability lifted: 3 yrs.

Improvements

-

Payment of Taxes

-

Title from Tax Assessor

-

The minimum time of occupation isn’t the only requirement for adverse possession -- a trespasser must also prove four additional elements to have a legitimate claim:

  • There must be a “hostile” claim: the trespasser must either
    • make an honest mistake (like relying on an incorrect deed);
    • merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that it is private property); or
    • be aware of his or her trespassing;
  • There must be actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
  • There must be open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
  • There must be exclusive and continuous possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time.

Kentucky Adverse Possession Laws: Related Resources

State real estate statutes, and especially concepts like adverse possession, can be confusing. You can contact a Kentucky real estate attorney near you if you would like legal advice regarding a real estate case or adverse possession matter. You can also visit FindLaw’s section on Adverse Possession for additional articles and information on this topic.

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