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New Mexico Adverse Possession Laws

It’s only natural to think that land we bought and paid for will be ours forever. And other than a few exceptions, that’s true. One such exception is known as “adverse possession,” where a continual trespasser can gain legal title to property if they can meet certain additional conditions.

This can sound pretty scary property owners, so how do adverse possession laws work in the Land of Enchantment? This is a basic overview of adverse possession laws in New Mexico.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

It may be a shock to most laypeople, but the idea of "adverse possession" is a fairly old legal doctrine that was designed to encourage landowners to make beneficial use of their land. Under most adverse possession laws, a trespasser must openly inhabit and improve a property, or even a small part, for a determined amount of time to gain legal title to the property. New Mexico law requires an individual to occupy property for at least 10 years before ownership could change hands.

Adverse Possession in New Mexico

New Mexico’s adverse possession statutes are highlighted below.

Code Section

New Mexico Statutes 37-1-22: Title in Fee Simple by Adverse Possession

Time Period Required for Occupation

10 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs.

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

After disability lifted: 1 yr.

Improvements

-

Payment of Taxes

Required

Title from Tax Assessor

-

In addition to the minimum time of occupation, there are four elements necessary for a legitimate claim for adverse possession:

  • 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.

More Resources for New Mexico Adverse Possession Laws

State adverse possession laws can be confusing. For additional articles and resources on this topic, you can visit FindLaw’s section on Adverse Possession. If you would like legal assistance with a real estate or adverse possession issue, you can also consult with a New Mexico real estate attorney.

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