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Adverse Possession Of Land That Is ‘Bona Vacantia’

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When in the process of formalising an application for adverse possession of registered land, you may find that the registered proprietor is actually a company that is now dissolved. If the Land is owned by a company that is now dissolved, the land will then be vested in the Crown as bona vacantia on the date in which the company was dissolved.

‘Bona Vacantia’ means vacant goods, and is a term given to ownerless property. By law, bona vacantia land passes to the Crown. Where the Land you may be adversely possessing is bona vacantia, the rules and requirements for adverse possession slightly differ from that of the standard rules for registered and unregistered applications.

The requirements for adverse possession are as below, and whilst this must be exhibited in an application that is for bona vacantia land, the ‘required period’ is substantially different:

  • Uninterrupted factual possession of the land for the required period and,
  • An intention to “possess” the land – i.e. to the exclusion of others

If, at the date of the company’s dissolution, you can show at least 12 years of adverse possession against the company, the company’s title would have become statute barred and therefore there would be nothing to pass to the Crown as bona vacantia. This consequently means that the title of the land in question has been extinguished by adverse possession prior to the dissolution. As a result, the required period would be 12 years, and an application would be made under the ‘old regime’, under Schedule 12 Paragraph 18 of the Land Registration Act 2002.

If, however, the time was still running and the company’s title for the land was not distinguished upon its dissolution, the adverse possession then becomes that appropriate to Crown Land, which is a far lengthier period of 30 years.

It should be noted, however, that it is only property or land beneficially owned by a dissolved company that passes to the Crown as bona vacantia. Any property which was held by the dissolved company upon trust is exempt from being vested in the Crown as bona vacantia as per section 654 of the Companies Act 1985.

To conclude, should you be in adverse possession of company-owned land whereby the company is now dissolved, it is essential to be aware as to when your occupation began; as well as when the company was dissolved. It is essential to ensure you apply to the Land Registry under the correct regimes, having met the timescales for the required period that applies in your situation to promote chances of a successful application.

For more information about Adverse Possession please click here or contact our Adverse Possession specialists on 0800 088 6004.

Emily Griffiths


Emily Griffiths

Trainee Solicitor

Emily is a Trainee Solicitor in the Private Family team in our Northampton Office.