As a farmer, you own a lot of lands, much of which you probably do not access on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. You may also own parts of wooded land, which is more difficult for you to keep an eye on. It is property likes yours that squatters target.
If you catch a squatter on your property, you, like so many other property owners, may assume that you can just kick the squatter out. This is not necessarily the case. Due to adverse possession laws, the squatter may have more rights to use your property than you think. In fact, he or she may now own the land. Rocket Homes explains the ins and outs of adverse possession laws and what you can do to avoid being on the wrong side of them.
An overview of adverse possession
Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that essentially rewards trespassers or squatters for continually using another person’s property. If a trespasser can prove that the situation meets certain common law requirements, he or she may be able to acquire a valid legal title to a piece of land, property, or real estate without paying the rightful owner. For a trespasser to obtain ownership of the property, he or she must prove that certain elements exist. However, the main element is continued use — whether open or discreet — of the property in question.
Preventing adverse possession
Unfortunately, if a squatter can prove the existence of the elements of adverse possession, there is little you can do to fight the claim. For this reason, it is imperative that you take proactive measures to prevent adverse possession from becoming an issue. Below are the top ways you can take preventative action:
- Get an easement. If you know that someone is using your land despite your efforts to get him or her to stop, get him or her to sign an agreement that acknowledges that the land is yours, but that grants the trespasser themselves the right to use it for an express purpose.
- Rent to the trespasser. By renting to the trespasser, you effectively remove a necessary element of adverse possession. It also gives you documentation and sets a time limit for how long the person can use your property. It also helps you retain full ownership of your land.
- Remain present. In Illinois, a trespasser must continually use a piece of property for 10 years before he or she can file an adverse possession claim. A decade is a long time for a person to continue to use a property unnoticed. You can easily prevent an adverse possession claim by keeping tabs on your land.
If you have become the victim of adverse possession, you may still have a chance to reclaim your property. Seek legal help to explore your options.