May 27, 2016

"Elderly couple who cut wealthy neighbour's grass verge for 12 years given land in 'squatters' rights' ruling."

Adverse possession.... not in the U.S.... as you can tell by "verge."

24 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

Well, that's what title insurance is all about...

pm317 said...

This article reminds of a story I heard first hand recently from my brother who lives in India and is visiting here. The house across from his was illegally occupied by a guy who didn't have any rights to it. The plot belonged to an elderly couple who didn't use it for any purpose and were living in another town -- basically neglecting it. This guy who appropriated it, simply built his house on the plot illegally but bribed all the authorities and got away with it. The elderly couple don't have the means to challenge him in court. When I heard that story, my blood boiled and I am so thankful to live in the US where laws and legal rights still mean something. But in this article at least the elderly couple tended and took care of the land and the other party was wealthy. It is not like the bully stealing from people who could not defend themselves.

tim maguire said...

The photo isn't very helpful, but calling caring for a piece of ground "adverse possession" seems like a dangerous precedent. Generally, it's not enough that you use it as your own, but that you exercise actual ownership rights over it by living on it or at least installing a fence.

Cutting the grass and putting some stones down to keep the delivery truck off it hardly seems like enough to signal to the real owner that you intend to claim it as yours.

tim maguire said...

pm317, adverse possession is an American concept as well. Similar to the statute of limitations--you have a certain amount of time to assert your rights and if you don't, then you lose.

Balfegor said...

Always makes me antsy about my unused parking spot, which I allow my neighbours to use regularly. Generally they ask permission, but a few times I have discovered someone using it because it was open and they thought it was unassigned. Probably I ought to charge them a nominal sum to avoid this kind of nonsense.

Wilbur said...

You don't hear much about it lately, but a few years ago there was a real movement by SJWs to move into other people's homes - usually after foreclosures - file some bogus deed at the courthouse, and claim the property was theirs. Because social justice, of course.

Rather then just Rambo-ing their butts out, the authorities were scared to death of them and required civil attorneys to go through expensive litigation to have them removed.

Wilbur did not approve.

Hagar said...

If anyone regularly trespasses on your property, be sure to either file a complaint and officially order him to cease and desist, or give him an easement carefully spelling out the terms under which you allow him to pass across your property. And, of course, file that easement with the County Clerk's Office.

Hagar said...

Oh, and I think a piece of your property can also become public property if you allow anyone to trespass on it without objection.

Patrick said...

Doesn't seem "adverse" enough, that is, it's not really inconsistent with the rights of the original owner. Otherwise, my elderly neighbour would be in deep trouble, because I've been cutting his lawn for 13 years (or my sons have, lately).

Comanche Voter said...

It's safe to say that a newspaper reporter usually gets the facts in a court case wrong.

But as far as I can tell,the "Elderly Couple" would probably have prevailed in most US courts as well. US courts like to talk about "open, notorious and adverse possession".

Here's a couple that comes along, clears the weeds, dumps twelve tons of dirt on the space, puts up boundary markers, plants and maintains flower beds, mows the grass and paves two parking spaces. And they have been doing that for ten years. That's open notorious and adverse enough. About the only factor missing is whether they paid taxes on the property.

I assume that would be a slam dunk case in a claim of adverse possession against a US property owner who had been the "legal title owner" during that ten year period.

The interesting wrinkle here is that their new neighbor---let's call him "Wealthy Bozo" because he's managed to run up a quarter of a million pound legal bill for the "Elderly Couple", buys the property next door. Then Wealthy Bozo either claims legal paper title to the "verge" or files a claim to establish that title is his. I can't tell which from the story.

But Wealthy Bozo bought the property from "Seller"--whoever had owned the property during the time the "Elderly Couple" was cultivating their little flower bed cum parking lot.

And it's a rule of law out in say West Texas that Seller can't sell transfer or convey what he ain't got. And by the time of the sale to Wealthy Bozo, that verge wasn't Seller's to sell.

Now I am confident that the reporter got many things wrong. But I'm now 72 and what the heck is this with calling people who are 70 years old "elderly"?

David Begley said...

Most people don't realize how important title insurance is to America.

coupe said...

The thing to do now, is increase the taxes of the new owners, and reduce the taxes of the owner who let his property slip away, and wasted 250k pounds on a stupid lawyer.

Rocketeer said...

I was one the verge of thinking this happened in America until I ran across the word "neighbour" with the effete and unmanly "u".

eric said...

I have two acres of land. Behind me is five acres owned by a private citizen but not used. It remains completely empty. At the back of my land is a barn. My property line runs through the first few feet of the barn. I've been advised that if I just put up a fence behind my barn, after seven years, the property would be mine. Because the owner of the other property never comes around.

So, we decided a long time ago not to build a fence. This seems like stealing. But it seems we have similar laws in the USA.

Fritz said...

I have two acres of land. Behind me is five acres owned by a private citizen but not used. It remains completely empty. At the back of my land is a barn. My property line runs through the first few feet of the barn. I've been advised that if I just put up a fence behind my barn, after seven years, the property would be mine. Because the owner of the other property never comes around.

So, we decided a long time ago not to build a fence. This seems like stealing. But it seems we have similar laws in the USA.


Try that at the edge of some national park and let me know how that goes.

Hagar said...

The land the barn sits on is still yours Fritz (If the subject ever comes up and you, or the next owner of the barn, want it.

The Godfather said...

In the US, possession must be not only adverse (i.e., contrary to the ownership of the holder of record title), but also open, notorious, and under claim of right for a specified period, often 18 or 21 years, depending on the law of the particular state. It is a statute of limitations concept. Putting up a fence or otherwise excluding the record owner from the land in question is good evidence to support an adverse possession claim, but it isn't required in every case. A related concept is the prescriptive easement, where what is at stake is not ownership of the land but a right to use it, typically to cross the owner's land. To avoid adverse possession or a prescriptive easement, while still being a good neighbor, the owner of the record title may give the other party the right to use the property, such as by granting a revokable license, so the use is not adverse. This has to be done within the relevant period of limitations, of course. I don't know if this is a universal rule, but at least in some American jurisdictions, adverse possesion claims may be asserted based on serial use by a succession of owners: e.g., you buy a parcel of land, and the seller had been using a portion of the adjoining parcel adversely for (say) 10 years; if you continue the adverse use for another 11 years (if the relevant statutory period is 21 years) then you can claim the portion by adverse possession.

Like most real estate law in this country, there are a lot of variations from state to state, so it's important to consult a knowledgeable real estate lawyer in the jurisdiction.

Meade said...

Something there is that doesn’t love a lawsuit.

Good neighbors (like Fritz) make good neighbors.

jeff said...

A tall fence makes for good neighbors.

StephenFearby said...

"...In February 2012, Mr Heaney, who owns a property on the other side of a narrow lane, acquired "paper title" to the verge.

He immediately told the Kirkbys to "make no further use of it, whether for parking or otherwise"."

So who owned the property before Mr. Heaney acquired "paper title" in 2012? The story does not say.

A better picture of which is provided by the world internet tabloid of record, the Daily Mail, which shows the Kirby's cars parked in their new front yard as if it were in Queens, NY:

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2016/05/26/06/349EBE6B00000578-3609781-image-a-1_1464240416207.jpg

Since the area involved is clearly the verge on the other side of the old narrow lane from the property owned by Mr. Heaney, and right next to the property owned by the Kirkby's, the most likely default candidate (until proven otherwise) is whoever is the current Lord of the Manor of Thorp Arch. A cursory internet search identifies one William Gossip as the holder of that title in the 1700's, but nothing since:

http://www.thorparch.org.uk/village-history

He died on 25th March 1772 aged 68. Of his eleven children three sons survived him.

http://www.leodis.net/display.aspx?resourceIdentifier=20041110_68270511

Since in England the title, "Lord of the Manor of X" is classified as property that can be bought or sold with or without any other attached property (manor house, fields, village green, verges). The government on request will duly inscribe the title in a British passport, with the possible downside of alerting ISIS kidnappers to demand a bigger ransom. In case anyone is interested, the manor house of Thorp Arch was recently put up for sale (without the title) for £1.35 million.

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-34674077.html

The interest of lords of the manor in verges that they may still own is described here by the NYT:

"...Some manorial lordships come with no benefits other than the title. Most offer the lord first dibs on the manor's minerals and rights to the roadside, the narrow strip of land between a thoroughfare and the front yard of the property owner, who could be anyone from a farmer to a big corporation.

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/25/business/spending-it-lordship-has-its-price-blue-chip-bids-for-blueblood-titles.html?pagewanted=all

Finally, an updated (2013) article just on English verges, which seems to address their complexity very well.

http://www.oss.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/C10-Highway-Verges.pdf

clint said...

"tim maguire said...
The photo isn't very helpful, but calling caring for a piece of ground "adverse possession" seems like a dangerous precedent. Generally, it's not enough that you use it as your own, but that you exercise actual ownership rights over it by living on it or at least installing a fence. "

They did install a fence. And paved it. And parked their cars on it.

From the article: "But she and her 70-year-old husband ended up in court when, in February 2012, their wealthy neighbour, who had earlier removed their fence, registered the verge as his own."

Michael Edward McNeil said...

In California it's five years, and one must also pay the taxes on the property over that period.

The Gold Digger said...

Otherwise, my elderly neighbour would be in deep trouble, because I've been cutting his lawn for 13 years (or my sons have, lately).

Us, too! We and a few neighbors cut the grass and shoveled the sidewalk and driveway for our late neighbors. I should have told that old man that he could no longer park his car on the driveway that now belonged to the neighbors.

mikee said...

16 years ago, upon completion of my home at the edge of a new suburb outside Austin, Texas, the little old lady across the property line demanded we build a fence to keep our 0.2 acres separate from her 7.5 acre country residence. We did, but we did not propose to build the more normal 6 to 8 feet high, cedar paling barricade that would completely block our view of her lovely meadow acreage. We wanted a split rail, 2-horizontal beams cedar fence with 4" wire mesh, to allow the bunnies on her land free access to our back yard, and to keep the view. Plus it cost $1500 less.

She went little old lady ballistic. To shut her up, we moved the fence 1.5 feet inside our mutual boundary line, removing any damn thing she had to say about it from a legal perspective.

She is long gone to her reward. The current occupants, a family with two lawyers in it, understand why we send them a certified letter every year documenting that we are clearing the fenceline on our property, on their side of the fence, because that is our property, too, for 1.5 feet. They laugh and wave as we do so.

I lived five years in a Baltimore rowhouse for 5 years, and fought with neighbors about which side of a 2" diameter pole the chain link fence was going to be on, because ONE INCH up to the pole center was our property, too!