Friday, August 11, 2006

Whatever Happened to Adverse Possession?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on claiming free properties. I said that it doesn't happen. Well I was wrong, a reader made the very reasonable point yesterday that it is possible to acquire properties free through adverse possession.

The law of adverse possession (or squatters rights) is an ancient one. Occupy a property for 12 years and it’s yours. Well not quite anymore I’m afraid. The Land Registration Act 2002 imposed a new regime. Whilst it retains the principle it adds an important new twist, the adverse possessor (squatter) now needs to ask the owner’s permission after 10 years. Only if the owner agrees or fails to respond can the adverse possessor take ownership.

Property Law has a good explanation here

A further twist was recently played out in the European Court of Human Rights . The case JA Pye (Oxford) ltd v Graham revolved around a piece of grazing land near Heathrow airport. Graham successfully took possession of the land from Pye. Pye appealed. The case was held under the pre Land registration Act regime so no permission was required, but the court’s comments were very interesting. They concluded that the legislation infringed Pye's human rights. They said it was disproportionate and because no compensation was payable to the landowner, it could not be justified. They conceded that the changes introduced by the Land Registration Act 2002 go some way to addressing these deficiencies. But held up the possibility that if the law remained unchanged the government may have to pay compensation to owner’s whose land is adversely possessed. Surely an invitation to the government to make more changes, or possibly remove the law altogether.

Adverse possession does still exist, but only just.


  1. David, I think the "opposition" are reading this. I've had an e-mail today from a chap who wants a copy of my empties list minus those pending CPO he says "I'm looking to take vacant property by way of an adverses possesion order (land registration Act 2002) and to provide low cost rental homes to those in the greatest need ie homeless/asylum seekers".
    My first instinct is to tell him to get stuffed.

  2. Andrew these people are not the opposition we're all in the business of getting homes back into use together. Not sure how your chap is going to use the land registration act but his objectives sound laudable enough. I'd ignore your instinct and give him what he's asking for he may well be able to do something useful with it.