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Virginia Adverse Possession Laws

Virginia Adverse Possession Laws at a Glance

Continuous trespassers' rights, or "adverse possession" laws, an individual who inhabits and improves an otherwise neglected piece of real estate may claim title to that property after a certain amount of time has passed. Typically, the trespasser must possess the property publicly and, in some cases, pay property taxes as if he or she owned the property. Under Virginia adverse possession laws, a person may acquire title after inhabiting a property for 15 years.

A Brief History of Adverse Possession Laws

Adverse possession laws originated in Roman law, which permitted an individual using (or otherwise in possession) of an item to claim it as theirs if the original owner was absent for a period of one to two years. But this claim was not valid under Roman law if the item was stolen. Adverse possession was eventually adopted throughout Europe and now is considered part of American common law.

Elements of an Adverse Possession Claim

These laws are an extension of trespassing laws, since the statute of limitations for trespassing must expire before the individual in possession of a property may claim title. In other words, the squatter gets title almost by default if the legal time limit has passed. Generally, someone who wishes to claim adverse possession of a property must meet the following criteria:

  • 'Hostile' Possession - The property is taken without permission from the property owner.
  • 'Actual' Possession - The claimant must physically possess the property in order to claim title.
  • 'Open and Notorious' - Possession of the property must be open and obvious to casual onlookers.
  • 'Exclusive and Continuous' for a Specified Period of Time - The person claiming title must have been the exclusive possessor of the property for 15 years (in Virginia).

The basics of Virginia adverse possession law are listed below, with links to related articles and resources.

Code Section 8.01-236, 237
Time Period Required for Occupation 15 yrs.and Color of Title: 15 yrs
Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability With disability: 25 yrs. max.
Improvements -
Payment of Taxes -
Title from Tax Assessor -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia real estate attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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