With one of the largest real estate markets country, California is the perfect place for people wanting to own a home. But wherever a person chooses to build a home, other people will most likely be around the area. Under the adverse possession doctrine, someone could legally take possession of the property if they live there long enough.

In California, adverse possession laws allow for a person to legally claim ownership over a property by paying taxes and staying there for a certain amount of time.

What qualifies as an Adverse Possession?

Depending on how a person looks at the situation, adverse possession could seem like theft of land or allowing squatters a place to live. Adverse possession occurs when a person, or for example a squatter who has found a home to live in. That squatter knowingly could trespass onto the property and start living there, paying the taxes and keeping the home in order. After 5 years, that squatter legally owns that property.

There are four requirements that must be met for adverse possession claims-

1. Hostile Claims

2.  Actual Possession

3. Open and Notorious Possession

4. Exclusive and Continuous Possession

For these requirements to be met, the person must be living in the home for 5 years, must be paying the taxes of the home, and take care of the home. They may not be secretly living in the home or trying to hide from being seen. This would void any adverse possession claims. The squatter would also not be able to share the land with anyone else and must keep it to themselves.

Why do adverse possession claims exist?

People are given adverse possession when a piece of land goes untouched or uncared for. Local governments and cities would rather have a squatter living in a home instead of an empty home. It becomes a waste in the community. Therefore, if a person moves into the home and is productive they could become the legal owner of the home. Adverse possession laws come from Roman times, as the Romans allowed for one to legally own a piece of land if the rightful owner does not kick them off. The rule also states that the land cannot be taken by theft. This concept is spread throughout Europe as well to this day.

What if a squatter is on my property trying to use adverse possession?

If someone is living illegally on your property, your first choice of action should be going to the home and ask the squatters to leave. Show the property title with your name listed. If it is a mistake, the squatters should leave. If they choose to remain, your next course of action would be to contact a lawyer. The lawyer would go through the court to get back the land. The local police would not be able to help, if the squatters have been paying bills to the home the police would not have the authority to kick them out.


Q: My neighbor put an incorrect fence up 10 years ago about a foot in the property line. What can i do?

A: Depending on the state statute of limitations, if it was over 10 years ago that land would be the neighbors. Since the fence is “Open and Notorious,” after a certain period that amount of land would be theirs.

Q: What is the statute of limitations in California for land issues?

A: The statute of limitations regarding land is 3 years.

Q: Could the statute of limitations be extended?

A: In some cases, yes. If the person was out of state for a period of time during those 3 years, there could be an extension.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been involved in an adverse possession claim we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.