Home > Uncategorized > “Squatters Rights” – How Easy Is It To Acquire Property By Adverse Possession?

“Squatters Rights” – How Easy Is It To Acquire Property By Adverse Possession?

 

I had a client recently come to me about a concern about her boundary line – she was concerned that her neighbor’s actions towards her property might mean that he now owns the property.

 

She raised a good question – how easy is it go gain property by adverse possession?

 

The answer to this question is, in general, – not too easy.

 

A Recent Unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals case highlights this fact.  Arbour v. Albert, 307234, 2013 WL 2278124 (Mich. Ct. App. May 23, 2013)

I. Facts: 
Plaintiffs Richard and Debra Arbour purchased a lot along the Escanaba River in 1994. Because untrained individuals imprecisely divided and described the lots decades earlier, the Arbours believed that their northern border was a triangle marked by a copse of trees. That triangular piece of land actually belonged to the Arbours’ northern neighbor, currently Katrina Albert.
In 2010, after two years of disagreement regarding the boundary line, the Arbours filed suit to quiet title to the disputed land. The Arbours claimed title by adverse possession or, in the alternative, that the neighbors had acquiesced to a new border for the statutory period.
During a bench trial, the parties presented conflicting evidence regarding their historical use of the disputed land and the dates on which significant events occurred.
II. Law:
MCL 600.5801(4) – “Squatters Rights” – More formally Known as Acquiring Title by Adverse Possession
Anyone claiming  ownership by adverse possession has the burden to establish all the required elements, by “clear and cogent” evidence.2 Beach v. Lima Twp, 489 Mich. 99, 106; 802 NW2d 1 (2011), citing Burns v. Foster, 348 Mich. 8, 14; 81 NW2d 386 (1957).
A Court must  strictly construe the evidence “with every presumption … in favor of the record owner of the land.” Rozmarek v. Plamondon, 419 Mich. 287, 292; 351 NW2d 558 (1984).
Therefore a party claiming squatters rights must bring a high level of evidence – “clear and cogent” that all the following elements were met:
  • have had actual;
  • visible,
  • open,
  • notorious,
  • exclusive,
  • uninterrupted possession,
  • hostile to the owner and
  • under cover of claim of right,
  • for a period of 15 years.
Arbour v. Albert, 307234, 2013 WL 2278124 (Mich. Ct. App. May 23, 2013).
Any of these elements not met by clear and cogent proof is fatal to a claim for ownership by adverse possession.
III. Result in Arbour:
In the case of Arbour, the Court affirmed the trial Court’s decision denying that the Arbours’ acquired the property by adverse possession, finding that the Arbour’s ownership was not exclusive. The Arbours’ testified that it was exclusive, but Ms. Albert testified otherwise – and the court found her testimony more credible. Case over.
IV. Application:
There are situations where a property owner should be legitimately concerned about an adverse possession claim; however, the presumption is against it. In fact a high level of proof of various elements must be proven, the most obvious element being possession for 15 consecutive years.
Questions? Comments?
Email me at: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com
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Categories: Uncategorized

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