Select Page

Property II
Villanova University School of Law
Sirico, Louis J.

A.    Definition
1.      Process through which a person gains title to property after a statutorily determined amount of time, defeating all rights of the true owner, so long as conditions are met
B.     Rationales
1.      Punishes owner for sitting on land too long
2.      Rewards adverse user for utilizing and improving land
3.      Evidentiary tools
a.       Evidence decays over time and stale claims should be barred
b.      Confirm lost grants or otherwise correct mistakes
4.      Structural purpose: facilitating efficient transfer of property
5.      Preserves the status quo: no point in denying adverse possession when more loss in ejecting adverse user than original owner would gain
C.     Elements of Adverse Possession
1.      Actual Possession
a.       Reasons
i.                    Gives notice to original owner
ii.                  Indicates adverse user may be claiming the property and has ousted other persons
iii.                Date acts as trigger for original owner’s cause of action for trespass or ejectment, so limitations period could start running
b.      What constitutes actual possession is a function of type, location and expected community uses of such property
i.                    Adverse user doesn’t have to live on property
ii.                  Unless otherwise indicated in statute, doesn’t have to pay taxes—may even claim adverse if true owner is paying taxes
iii.                Selling, mortgaging or renting property could constitute actual possession
c.       ExceptionàColor of Title
i.                    Definition: Person claims ownership under written document, but faulty
ii.                  Benefits to Adverse Possessor
1)      Statutes significantly reduce time of statutes of limitations
2)      May claim constructive possession if proves adverse possession under color of title
·         Constructive Possession: even if adverse possess only part of tract, could gain whole tract if wins under color of title
·         If deed describes multiple lots, with not all occupied, constructive possession extends to lots not adjoining
d.      Exception to ExceptionàTrue owner’s actual possession of part of land negates constructive possession of entire tract
i.                    Example:
ii.                  If Judy (AP) resides on 5 acres of 500 acre lot with color of title, constructive possession exists for all 500 acres. If Edwin (true owner) resides on different 5 acre tract, Judy’s const. poss. Is negated and she could only adversely possess the 5 acres.
2.      Open & Notorious
a.       Definition: adverse possessor’s use of property so visible and apparent it gives notice to true owner
b.      Actual notice not required
c.       Buildings, fences, crops/animals might const open & notorious
3.      Exclusive
a.       Definition: adverse possessor holds land to the exclusion of the true owner
b.      Can’t be exclusive if two or more adverse possessor’s
i.                    Exception:
ii.                  If one has superior legal right (ie. color of title), ousts the other, statutory period runs when first use of property, not when other is ousted
c.       Adverse possessor’s can act in concert, however
4.      Hostile or Adverse
a.       Majority or Objective View
i.                    Definition: Hostile or adverse possession means simply that adverse possessor uses occupied property without true owner’s permission and inconsistent with true owner’s legal rights
ii.                  Tenant/Landlord:
·         Can’t claim adverse possession because on property with permission
·         Only time is when possessor intends to remain on the property with or without the true owner’s permission
·         Entering with permission, possessor’s continued stay could become hostile but claim must be unequivocal- must provide notice or engage in act that clearly shows adverse ownership
b.      Minority, Bad Faith or Intentional Trespass View
i.                    Subjective Intent: Looks to the possessor’s state
ii.                  In the case of neighbors and boundary lines:
·         Difference between this subjective view and the objective view (discussed above) is that those favoring the objective view would allow a mistaken neighbor to adversely possess land as

generally can take advantage of the tolling statute to the same extent as the person with the disability, except when disability is deemed to end on day of the sale or gift
F.      Temporal and Physical Severance and Adverse Possession
a.       Adverse possession protects persons who have future interest in prop
b.      Land ownership may be divided temporally, ie. by time
i.                    General rule is that statute does not begin to run against a person having a future interest until the future interest becomes possessory
ii.                  Illustration: If land divided by life estate and remainderman, adverse possessor has no right to possess until after end of life. If enters before, can only divest the life tenant- statute doesn’t begin until remainder possesses
c.       Likewise, land may be divided vertically—air rights, surface rights and subsurface (typically mineral) rights
G.    Personal Property and Adverse Possession
a.       Some elements work but others give trouble, ie. open and notorious
b.      Statute of Limitations Shorter for Personality
i.                    Starts when “accrues”
o   Last element of cause of action in place
o   If art stolen, statute starts only when knows where it is and demands back
ii.                  Due Diligence
o   True owner bears burden of diligence
o   Cause of action does not accrue until true owner discovers (or should discover) facts permitting statute to accrue
A.    Definition
1.      Granting privilege to use part of private property (road/path)
B.     Prescriptive Easements
1.      Analogous to adverse possession
2.      Elements the same with exception of EXCLUSIVITY
C.     Categories
1.      Affirmative Easement