The doctrine of adverse possession conveyancing, allows third parties claim to a right over land (to which they originally had no legal title to) which they have occupied continuously for over 12 years with the intention of excluding all others including the true owner (also commonly known as “Squatters Rights”). If a squatter enjoys adverse and exclusive possession of the land for over 12 years, which is inconsistent with the title of the true owner, then he or she may oust that owner and gain title.
The essence of the doctrine of adverse possession is that the legal owner has a right of action to recover the land from the person in occupation. If that the right of action was not exercised within the period of time allowed (12 years) then that right of action is barred by law and the rights/estate in favour of that person are extinguished. It is this extinguished estate or interest that the Squatter is applying to acquire.
Where a person enjoys adverse and exclusive possession of the land, to which he or she is not entitled, for a period of 12 years or more, that person will be entitled to claim a right over the land. The period is extended to 30 years for land owned by a state authority.
An application for adverse possession is made to the Property Registration Authority. A long and detailed document must be prepared setting out the history of the adverse possession and showing indisputable evidence that the “Squatter” is now entitled to the property. Each application for title based on adverse possession will be considered on its own merits no two cases are the same.
The doctrine places a positive obligation on landowners to ensure that their lands are not occupied by third parties. It is important to note also, that small strips of land are capable of being adversely possessed as well as buildings and large fields. A landowner ought to inspect his or her property regularly to ensure that no unauthorised person is squatting on his or her lands.