View Full Version : Adverse Possession ("Squatter's) Law



AFCM
06-07-2016, 09:45 AM
Oklahoma Statutes, Title 12, Section 93 seems to be the applicable law, but I'm having a hard time understanding the letter of the statute, even after looking over the definition of terms and such. So here's the deal.

1. I purchased a new home that's backed up to a creek.

2. However, our actual property line ends approximately 100 feet away from the creek.

3. The land between the creek and my house is densely wooded with invasive, non-native (red cedar/juniper pine) and obnoxious (poison oak and ivy) vegetation.

4. I believe that the land is owned by OKC; at least, that's what the home builder told me.

5. Of course, it's backed up to a creek, and I don't know if this factors in to adverse possession law in some way. (Say, if the law were to prevent someone from taking over land which butts up to a fresh-water supply source, or something like that.)

So, if I were to openly maintain the land without consent from the owner, be it the city or otherwise, for the sufficient time period, would I have a shot at gaining title to the land? Are municipalities protected from losing land under the squatter's law?

SoonerDave
06-07-2016, 11:49 AM
I think adverse use takes years to establish, something like five to seven. A former neighbor down the street from where I grew up had a lot boundary war with one of *their* neighbors that I believe ended up in court. I think relying on adverse use or adverse posession is a shaky issue. The survey done for the sale/financing should tell you exactly where the boundaries are, so don't rely on what the builder told you. Carries essentially zero legal weight.

jompster
06-07-2016, 12:42 PM
If I recall correctly, it also depends on if the discontinuation of use of the land in question would present an unnecessary hardship on the user. It's up to the interpretation of the courts to some degree. I studied a case in college where there were two five-acre tracts owned by different people, one in front of the other. The one in back had no access to a county road, so the owner of the front parcel used a strip along the side of his land to build a driveway to the rear parcel. Twenty-something years later, the front parcel was sold and the new owner blocked the road and told the owner of the rear parcel that they could no longer use the strip for the driveway. The owner of the rear parcel sued for use of the strip and won because he had been using the drive for over 20 years and closing it would create an unnecessary hardship. In this case, it's likely government-owned property that abuts yours and you should task them with maintaining it.

stick47
06-07-2016, 01:20 PM
Forgive me if you take this as personal but I don't understand the rationale that allows somebody to usurp anothers property simply b/c they make improvements to it that the real owner didn't make themselves. If you want the property, find the owners and make an offer. Any other scenario is unreasonable IMO.

stick47
06-07-2016, 01:24 PM
As far as squatters law goes, I think it's a disguting concept. I have read of a couple of cases where a soldier went off to Iraq and returned home to find someone living in his house and it took a lot of court actions to get them out. Squatters law. I can't even think of the term without getting mad that such a law exists.

chuck5815
06-07-2016, 01:31 PM
This isn't legal advice, but most states don't allow private landowners to use adverse possession to take lands from the public. If the land is owned by OKC, there is a decent chance that adverse possession isn't available.

@stick47 "highest and best use" is the policy rationale for adverse possession. the government wants people to take land and put it to some beneficial use. and Oklahoma's law appears to be very forgiving. for most situations, a landowner should have 15 years to bring a claim (ejection/eviction/trespass/etc.) against the entity or person who attempts to perfect title by adverse possession. that's a pretty long time compared to most states.

stick47
06-07-2016, 01:58 PM
So it's like "Please press 1 for English?"
If taxes are paid and ordinances obeyed the squatters eviction should only require a call to the sheriff.

Zuplar
06-07-2016, 02:10 PM
If I recall correctly, it also depends on if the discontinuation of use of the land in question would present an unnecessary hardship on the user. It's up to the interpretation of the courts to some degree. I studied a case in college where there were two five-acre tracts owned by different people, one in front of the other. The one in back had no access to a county road, so the owner of the front parcel used a strip along the side of his land to build a driveway to the rear parcel. Twenty-something years later, the front parcel was sold and the new owner blocked the road and told the owner of the rear parcel that they could no longer use the strip for the driveway. The owner of the rear parcel sued for use of the strip and won because he had been using the drive for over 20 years and closing it would create an unnecessary hardship. In this case, it's likely government-owned property that abuts yours and you should task them with maintaining it.

I remember a similar case in my real estate classes in college. I do believe it's 7 years of open maintenance and use without anyway saying others. I doubt if it's public land that this would apply. If it is public land I personally wouldn't be opposed to helping maintain if I received benefit from it. Now if that maintenance led to more use by the "public" I may in turn just let it go. That's just my 2 cents.

rezman
06-07-2016, 02:29 PM
I've mentioned before in another thread that a friend of my wife's who owned some property that bordered property owned by a local private lake residential development discovered that the fence that ran along one side of their property and belonged to the Lake development, was over on their property by several feet. When they tried to get the fence moved, The lake property owners asociation used Adverse Possession to lay claim to the strip of land because they had been maintaining it for years.

mkjeeves
06-07-2016, 02:31 PM
The internet say 15 years and nope on public land.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-can-claim-property-based-adverse-possession-oklahoma.html

jompster
06-07-2016, 05:38 PM
Forgive me if you take this as personal but I don't understand the rationale that allows somebody to usurp anothers property simply b/c they make improvements to it that the real owner didn't make themselves. If you want the property, find the owners and make an offer. Any other scenario is unreasonable IMO.

I certainly don't take it personally, and I agree with you. It's a disgusting little loophole. In the case I mentioned, the actual owner DID make the improvement in order for the other property owner to use to access his property. It was the NEW owner who attempted to disallow the use of the strip. (And thanks to the others who chimed in the the actual length of time... I couldn't remember how many years.)

hoya
06-09-2016, 03:36 PM
I certainly don't take it personally, and I agree with you. It's a disgusting little loophole. In the case I mentioned, the actual owner DID make the improvement in order for the other property owner to use to access his property. It was the NEW owner who attempted to disallow the use of the strip. (And thanks to the others who chimed in the the actual length of time... I couldn't remember how many years.)

The case you're talking about isn't adverse possession. You're talking about an easement. The one property owner has a right of access so he can get to his property. If I recall, the case involved someone selling off property in chunks. You can't deny the guy the right to get to his property by selling off all the land that surrounds it.

Adverse possession is different. That generally takes place when somebody puts up a fence in the wrong spot, and nobody does anything about it for a few decades. Sometimes each property goes through multiple owners during this time. Then somebody comes along and has the property surveyed, and says "hey, your fence is 8 inches too far into my property" and they want the other guy to "get off my land". Adverse possession cases have even involved demanding that the other guy tear down an addition to his house that got made 30 years earlier because the corner is a few inches too far over into the other guy's land.

And the courts have basically said that if you snooze, you lose. They aren't going to enforce claims to property when you didn't care enough to do anything about it for 15+ years.

Midtowner
06-10-2016, 03:04 PM
Are municipalities protected from losing land under the squatter's law?

I recently assisted on the winning side of this case: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ok-court-of-civil-appeals/1690858.html. It seems pretty on-point. A lot of cities maintain flood-prevention easements giving them control of creeks and surrounding land.

jompster
06-12-2016, 12:30 AM
The case you're talking about isn't adverse possession. You're talking about an easement. The one property owner has a right of access so he can get to his property. If I recall, the case involved someone selling off property in chunks. You can't deny the guy the right to get to his property by selling off all the land that surrounds it.

Adverse possession is different. That generally takes place when somebody puts up a fence in the wrong spot, and nobody does anything about it for a few decades. Sometimes each property goes through multiple owners during this time. Then somebody comes along and has the property surveyed, and says "hey, your fence is 8 inches too far into my property" and they want the other guy to "get off my land". Adverse possession cases have even involved demanding that the other guy tear down an addition to his house that got made 30 years earlier because the corner is a few inches too far over into the other guy's land.

And the courts have basically said that if you snooze, you lose. They aren't going to enforce claims to property when you didn't care enough to do anything about it for 15+ years.

Got it... Yes, you're right, that was an easement case. Thanks for the clarification!

chuck5815
06-12-2016, 09:57 AM
Got it... Yes, you're right, that was an easement case. Thanks for the clarification!

although easements and adverse possession are different topics, it is possible to obtain an easement by adverse possession.

it's called a "prescriptive easement" and the elements closely mirror the elements for adverse possession. the major difference being that the prescriptive easement only provides access across the property whereas adverse possession provides ownership rights.

Richard at Remax
06-13-2016, 10:36 AM
15 years.