Even in this day and age, it’s possible to become the legal owner of a piece of property that once belonged to someone else, without purchasing it from them. This legal concept of taking over a property until you eventually become the rightful owner of it is called adverse possession, sometimes known as “squatter’s rights.”
To adversely possess a piece of property you must openly, obviously, and actually live and use the property. This possession must be exclusive and continuous for as many years as is required by state law, which is 10 years in Mississippi. Also, your possession must be “hostile” to the landowners’ rights, for example, if the property owner has given you permission to stay on the property, you can’t successfully adversely possess the land.
The following chart outlines the main adverse possession laws in Mississippi.
|Code Sections||Mississippi Code Sections
|Time Period Required for Occupation||A person must occupy the property for 10 years to be able to claim ownership by adverse possession. In addition, the person must pay taxes on the property for at least 2 years.
In addition, Mississippi has a special type of public land title called 16th Section land that’s held in trust for public education. It’s possible to adversely possess this land, under a claim of a valid title (that is, you believed your title to the property was valid, but it wasn’t). You have to be in actual possession for at least 25 years with this type of land.
|Time for Landowner to Challenge and the Effect of Landowner's Disability||Mississippi law allows minors or persons with mental disabilities that prevent them from defending their property rights extra time to boot out a trespasser hoping to adversely possess their land. After the disability has lifted, such as after the child turns 18, the formerly legally disabled person has 10 years to establish their property rights.
However, in no case will the disability for mental illness last longer than 31 years. Therefore, a patient person can still adversely possess the property of a person of “unsound mind,” it just takes much longer.
|Improvements||Sometimes, a person can adversely possess a portion of their neighbor’s property by building a fence or a driveway over it. However, since 1998, the law has required the person file a notice with the chancery court clerk that says the fence or driveway was built without permission of the landowner. Not filing this notice doesn’t create an inference that the property was adversely possessed.|
|Title from Tax Assessor||A person can purchase land from a tax assessor, usually at an action. The time period the former landowner can try to retrieve the property sold by a tax collector for failure to pay taxes is essentially 5 years. The person who bought the property under a tax title must have actually occupied the land for 3 years, after 2 years from the tax sale date.|
If you have questions about adverse possession, whether you’re trying to assert ownership of the land you’re living on or you’re concerned a trespasser may gain rights to your land, you should speak with an experienced Mississippi real estate lawyer. A lawyer can help evaluate the situation and determine what legal options you may have.
Note: State laws are revised frequently, it’s best to verify these real estate laws by conducting your own legal research or contacting an attorney.
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