Claiming Property Based on Adverse Possession in California
Adverse possession is also known as squatter’s rights. It is a means of acquiring title to real property that is legally valid, even against the interest of the true owner. The law of adverse possession is based on the notion that land should remain unused and unimproved, and that an individual who cares for and utilizes the property should be permitted to own it.
Depending on how one looks at it, adverse possession can either seem like an unfair theft of land by squatters or a justified grant to someone who will put the property in fair use.
Adverse possession in California is primarily defined and regulated by the state courts. Of course, there are some hurdles to clear before someone can claim a piece of another’s California land using this theory. The major hurdle is that the burden of proof to establish a claim of adverse possession is on the trespasser. In other words, if a person holds legal title to a piece of land, they are its presumed owner until and unless the adverse possessor can come up with enough compelling evidence and arguments to convince a judge to give their ownership over all or a portion of it.
It must be kept in mind that what constitutes possession of the real property is often not as straightforward as what constitutes possession of the personal property. Concerning personal property, the rules of adverse possession are simple. If a person simply holds an object without being sued by the valid owner until the applicable statute of limitations runs out, the owner cannot sue to recover the item. However, because of the significance attached by the common law to the ownership of real property, California law has developed strict rules that must be adhered to for an adverse possession to be effectively carried out.
Adverse possession under California law is established from the nature of a trespasser’s possession and the length of time the person possesses the land. A trespasser’s possession must be hostile, actual, exclusive, open and notorious, and continuous for the statutory period. An adverse possessor must show that they paid taxes on the subject property for five years as per the California Civil Procedure Code 325.