When someone publicly moves into and improves an otherwise neglected property, they may acquire title to that property after a certain amount of time has passed. This is called "adverse possession," based on the idea that land should not sit idle. These protections are not valid if the possession of the property is done in secret. New York adverse possession laws require at least ten years of possession and payment of taxes throughout that period in order to be eligible for legal title.
The following table highlights the basics of New York adverse possession law and a more in-depth description follows. See Adverse Possession: Continuous Trespassers' Rights to learn more.
|Code Section||Real Prop. Acts & Procedures 501, et seq.|
|Time Period Required for Occupation||10 yrs.and Color of Title: 10 yrs.|
|Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability||-|
|Improvements||One way to possess land|
|Payment of Taxes||-|
|Title from Tax Assessor||-|
Requirements for Adverse Possession
Each state has its own basic requirements in order to assert an adverse possession claim. One of the justifications for these requirements is that they give the actual owner of the property a number of ways to prevent the adverse possessor from gaining ownership of the land. Another justification for adverse possession is that it allows the property to be used, rather than sit neglected and underdeveloped.
Open and Notorious
An adverse possessor must be using the property publicly, and not hiding their use. If their use is public, it gives the actual owner the opportunity to see the use, and assert their ownership rights. If their use is secret, the owner does not have the opportunity to exclude the trespasser.
Legal Time Period
All states have a time period that the adverse possessor must use the land before it becomes theirs. New York law requires the land to be used for at least ten years before the adverse possessor gains title.
The adverse possessors claim or use of the land must be incompatible with the owner's claim and use of the land. This means that the adverse possessor may not make an adverse possession claim if the owner gave them permission to use the land.
Exclusive and Continuous Possession
The New York ten-year requirement must be an unbroken and continuous ten years. Although the trespasser may leave and come back for short periods, their use of the land cannot be intermittent.
The adverse possessor actually be using the land as if it was his or her own.
Color of Title
Some states require the adverse possessor to have a mistaken claim to the land, like a defective title, or some other document that purports to convey the land to them.
Preventing Adverse Possession
One of the easiest methods for preventing an adverse possession claim is to periodically check up on unused lands. Also, adverse possession may come up as an encroachment from a neighbor. If you notice that your neighbor is using part of your land regularly, it may be wise to give them written permission to use the land, to ensure that they do not gain it through adverse possession in the future.
Find a New York Attorney for Your Adverse Possession Questions
If you would like to know more about adverse possession law, and how to protect yourself from it, or make a claim for property, there are many attorneys throughout New York with knowledge of property laws who may be able to help.
Contact a qualified attorney.