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Is possession really nine tenths of the law?

View profile for Claire Richardson
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Is possession really nine tenths of the law?

As far as land law is concerned, possession is a key component when investigating who owns a particular piece of land. Possession has the potential to enable someone to acquire ownership of land which does not belong to them. Sometimes known as ‘squatters rights”, this situation is referred to in law as “adverse possession”.

The popular phrase “possession is nine tenths of the law” reflects the requirement for factual possession of the land. To be successful in a claim of adverse possession it will also be necessary to show that there was an intention to possess the land to the exclusion of all others, including the landowner. In other words, if you have no intention to exclude all others from the land as far as is reasonably practical, or you possess the land with the landowner’s consent, your claim of adverse possession may fail.

There are of course other factors to a successful adverse possession claim, including that the possession must be uninterrupted for a specified period, usually ten or twelve years.

Possession of someone else’s land is not without risk and you may find yourself accused of trespassing.

If you are involved in a dispute over ownership of land and wish to formalise your claim to adverse possession or alternatively defend someone’s attempts to oust you from your land please contact our dispute resolution team on  0161 696 6178.