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Montana Adverse Possession Laws

When someone moves into possession of an otherwise neglected property, improves it, and possesses it in a transparent and public way, they may be able to claim title to the property under the doctrine of "adverse possession." The idea behind these laws is to make sure property doesn't sit idle or otherwise be wasted to the community.

Montana Adverse Possession Laws

Montana adverse possession laws require a five (5) year period of occupation before he or she may claim title to the property. A continuous trespasser must meet the following criteria in order to have a legitimate claim on a piece of property:

  • 'Exclusive and Continuous' for a Specified Period of Time - The occupation must be continuous and not split up among different individuals.
  • 'Hostile' Possession - This does not mean the property is taken by force, only that it is done without permission from the property owner.
  • 'Actual' Possession' - In other words, one must live at the property (be physically present) in order to claim title.
  • 'Open and Notorious' - The possession of the property is not covert or hidden, but obvious to onlookers.

What If I Have An Easement To Cross My Neighbor's Land?

Conversely, occupying land while acknowledging someone's superior rights, such as with a rental property, does not establish adverse possession. An outsider who obtains the landowner's permission to use or to cross land as a "neighborly accommodation" does not create adverse possession ownership.

Permission and Adverse Possession

While Montana law recognizes that a neighborly accommodation is not evidence of adverse use, passively allowing one to use land is not evidence of permissive use. Permission means affirmatively granting consent. Wanting to get along with neighbors and not contesting their use does not create neighborly accommodation.

The main provisions of Montana's adverse possession law are detailed in the following table. See FindLaw's Adverse Possession: Continuous Trespassers' Rights section to find related articles and resources.

Code Section 70-19-401, 411, 413
Time Period Required for Occupation

Five (5) yrs.and Color of Title: Five (5) yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: Five (5) yrs.

Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability After disability lifted: Five (5) yrs.
Improvements N/A
Payment of Taxes Required
Title from Tax Assessor N/A

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through legislation, ballot initiative, or court ruling -- contact a Montana land use and zoning attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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