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Massachusetts Adverse Possession Laws

Maybe you heard on the news about some people losing their land to trespassers. Or maybe you see a lot of land just sitting there and you think it’s going to waste. Or maybe you’ve never heard of this “adverse possession” thing before.

So how does it all work? Is it an unfair of robbery of land by squatters or a justified grant to a person who will actually put the property to good use? And what are the particulars in the Bay State? Here is a brief introduction to adverse possession laws in Massachusetts.

Adverse Possession Laws

The legal doctrine known as "adverse possession" allows trespassers who openly inhabit and improve an otherwise abandoned piece of property to gain title to that property after certain conditions are met. For instance, Massachusetts' adverse possession laws require an individual to occupy an otherwise neglected property publicly for at least 20 years regardless of "color of title" (meaning he or she has reason to believe they have the right to possess the property).

Adverse Possession in Massachusetts

The following chart lists the main provisions of Massachusetts adverse possession laws.

Code Section

260§21

Time Period Required for Occupation

20 yrs.-

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

-

Improvements

-

Payment of Taxes

-

Title from Tax Assessor

-

There are four general elements to a valid adverse possession claim. You must have:

  • A “hostile” claim: the trespasser must either
    • make an honest mistake (likes 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;
  • Actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
  • Open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
  • 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.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Adverse Possession Laws

Real estate law, and especially concepts like adverse possession, can be complicated. You can continue your own research and find more introductory information on this topic in FindLaw’s adverse possession section. If you would like to discuss your real estate case with a lawyer or if you want to know your rights and responsibilities as a landowner or occupier, you can contact an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney in your area and schedule a consultation.

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