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Vermont Adverse Possession Laws

A person who occupies property can acquire legal ownership of that property by continuous, open and adverse occupation of the property for a specified period of time. This is known as "adverse possession."

In its most extreme form, a person who trespasses on your land, establishes a residence as a squatter, and remains there for the applicable period of time, can without paying a dime, obtain legal ownership of the property occupied. Although that scenario is possible in a number of states, the vast majority of adverse possession cases in fact result from legal defects in deeds or good faith mistakes in understanding the physical boundaries of property described in deeds, rather than simple theft of real estate.

Vermont Adverse Possession Laws

Vermont adverse possession laws require a 15-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.

For example, if a neighbor built a fence through your property and maintained the fence and property for 15 years, and you knew the fence was through your property but did nothing, they could claim the property as their own.

The main provisions of Vermont'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 Tit. 12 §501
Time Period Required for Occupation

15 yrs

Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability N/A
Improvements N/A
Payment of Taxes N/A
Title from Tax Assessor N/A

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

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