It may seem odd at first glance, but most states allow squatters to obtain legal title to a piece of real estate if they inhabit that property for a certain number of years. The doctrine of "adverse possession," also referred to as "continuous trespassers' rights," is intended to discourage the abandonment of property by rewarding those who use it. Of course, it's not that simple. In Tennessee, someone may claim title after seven years (or 20 years without color of title) if they satisfy the following requirements:
It can all get a little confusing, but the following chart outlines some of the law's main provisions.
|Code Section||28-2-101, et seq.|
|Time Period Required for Occupation||7 yrs. with color of title; 20 yrs. without color of title|
|Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability||After disability lifted: 3 yrs.|
|Payment of Taxes||20 yrs.|
|Title from Tax Assessor||-|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Tennessee real estate attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Adverse Possession Laws and the Statute of Limitations
It's important to understand adverse possession laws within the context of the statute of limitations. Essentially, the property owner has a certain period of time to bring an eviction action against a squatter, or "continuous trespasser." Once the statute of limitations has run out, the property owner forfeits his or her right to evict and the squatter may claim title. If the trespasser does not possess the property openly, then the statute of limitations doesn't run. Essentially, adverse possession laws ensure that old claims that are difficult to prove don't leave unused land in limbo.
Research the Law
Tennessee Adverse Possession Laws: Related Resources
Contact a Tennessee Real Estate Attorney
Adverse possession laws can be quite knotty and hard to follow. If you are trying to establish property rights through adverse possession or just need further information about law's requirements, then you should talk to an experienced real estate attorney in the Tennessee area.
Contact a qualified attorney.