Expert advice from specialist adverse possession claims Solicitors
What we offer you
Genuine expertise. This is an area of law which is fraught with difficulty, and in which many firms of Solicitors offer assistance only as part of their general conveyancing services. Few of these lawyers deal with these cases on anything other than a very infrequent basis. What we offer our clients is genuine expertise to ensure that your applications for registration of land have the highest possible chance of success.
If the lawyers you are thinking of instructing do not deal with in excess of 100 adverse possession applications every year, we would recommend you speak to us on a no obligation basis so we can explain to you how we can help. Our experience shows that many claims are rejected by the Land Registry as a result of inadequate preparation of supporting evidence and misunderstanding as to the legal basis of the application. We are able to maximise the prospects of you achieving legal ownership of the land.
We represent clients nationwide, and in most cases face to face or site meetings are not required prior to submission of successful applications. Naturally in individual cases where our clients require a site visit and meeting this can be arranged.
What is adverse possession?
Obtaining registration in your name of land based on “adverse possession” is the process by which someone who is not the legal owner of a piece of land can have land transferred to them following possession and exclusive occupation of it for a specified period of time. The actual period of time required varies, dependent upon whether the land is registered at the Land Registry, or unregistered land, and even dependent upon the date when the land was registered in the past. Other time periods may apply dependent upon whether the land is held within a Trust, or was at some point owned by a Limited Company.
What do you need to prove?
Unfortunately, it is not sufficient to merely show that the land has been occupied. And it certainly isn’t sufficient just to find unregistered land. That doesn’t mean the land isn’t owned by anyone, it just means the land is not registered.
There needs to be exclusive occupation, with an intention to exclude anyone else other than your visitors from the land. There also needs to be use of the land to an extent where it the same type of use as if you actually owned it. So for instance, merely caring for land by mowing or tidying it may not be sufficient. Grazing animals on the land may not be enough. The occupier of the land needs to show a high degree of physical control over the land, but exactly what is sufficient in law depends on the circumstances, for instance the particular type and nature of the land in question, and how that type of land is usually used or enjoyed. For that reason, the evidence in support of individual applications needs to be very carefully drafted to comply with the requirements of the Land Registry and the Courts so that our clients can show they have dealt with the land in the same way as someone who legally owns it might be expected to deal with it. We understand the best way to present the evidence.
It wasn’t a straight forward process, but I received fantastic advice, couldn’t have done it without you”. Mr Clive Smith 31.01.18
“A big thank you to Chloe for preparing a well written Tribunal Case Summary for me. You put my mind at ease from the initial phone call and I knew you had the expertise to deal with the matter of adverse possession for me.” 17.01.18
“We were initially worried when we discovered the land was not ours but this worry was off set by the advice that was received; it put our minds at rest. Wilson Browne are experts in adverse possession they were professional and courteous and their charges were transparent.” Mr Mark Poskitt 05.02.18
“Without any doubt the team were experts who put my mind at rest straightaway and made me feel confident in the process. My questions were answered straightaway and I was very pleased with the outcome.” Mrs Dover 06.02.18.
The different types of application
There are a number of different legal regimes in operation in England and Wales relating to registration of land based upon adverse possession. Prior to the coming into force of the Land Registration Act 2002, a squatter could potentially acquire the right to be registered if they had adversely possessed land for a minimum of 12 years. The Land Registration Act 2002 created a new regime of 10 years, but this only applies to registered land. There is a new potential requirement which can apply to show that throughout the 10 year period the adverse possession was with a reasonable belief that the person in adverse possession believed they owned the land. The idea of the new legislation was to prevent someone squatting in land they knew they did not own and gaining ownership. But the requirement to prove a reasonable belief you own the land only applies if the landowner serves a specific notice on you after you have made your application.
However, the matter is made more complicated by the fact that transitional procedures are in place relating to registered land where adverse possession was taking place prior to the Land Registration Act coming into effect in October 2003, and further different provisions apply where land was only registered for the first time at a stage where someone had already had adverse possession of the land for a period of time sufficient to have made a successful application, but did not. For all of these reasons, we can get your application in the right form, and assess your claim to ensure that it is made properly. Different time scales may apply to land owned within a trust, or by the Crown, or where the land was owned by a developer years ago who has since been dissolved or liquidated.
A crucial pre-condition of a successful application is to prove that the adverse possession has been without the owner’s consent. When the concept of “adverse possession” is considered, the “adverse” bit relates to the possession being contrary to (or adverse) to the rights of the true legal owner. Put another way, any applicant needs to show that they have been squatting on the land without the owner’s consent, as if the occupation is with consent or licence it is not adverse. Particular difficulties might arise in relation to discussions that have been held with the legal owner, or where there might have been correspondence suggesting a possible purchase or licence of the land. Identifying these issues in the correct way is important to ensure an application succeeds. We understand the technical issues, and we can ensure that your application is not prejudiced by reference to historic discussions and proposals.
Use of land for access to and from other owned land is on occasions sufficient to support a successful application for registration, but there are particular difficulties that might arise, as a result of the overlap between the law relating to adverse possession and the law relating to rights of way.
Screening your application prior to submission to the Land Registry
As specialist lawyers in this area we are regularly met with clients who come to us after the Land Registry has rejected their application (often where the application was prepared by non-specialists). We would advise you to obtain specialist legal advice prior to submission of any adverse possession applications to the Land Registry or making contact with the landowners, so that the application can be properly screened and assessed for its prospects of success, rather than having to be amended after it has been submitted in the wrong form, or with evidence in a prejudicial form. We can advise you on whether your application is likely to succeed, and at a preliminary stage advise on whether you should make an application yourself to have land registered in your name.
The First Tier Property Tribunal
Contested applications are referred by the Land Registry to this Tribunal, who hold a hearing to decide the outcome. The procedural rules are complex and time scales must be complied with. We know how to pursue and defend applications before the Tribunal, and know when to negotiate and when not to.
Timing is crucial; it is important not to enter into any communication with a land owner without ensuring that the correspondence might not damage any application you might make. We can advise you on exactly when your application ought to be made; in some circumstances it is of huge tactical and legal importance!
If you are thinking about making an adverse possession type claim, we can assist. However, there are deadlines that apply and it is important to ensure that you receive expert advice at an early stage. As specialists in these cases we act for clients nationwide to resolve their legal difficulties and to increase their prospects of success. Call us on 0800 088 6004 for more information