The concept of adverse possession is an interesting law. Its purpose and design leaves many legal experts uncertain of its origin, but its history reflects our pioneer days when explorers went out in search of a better life living off the land. These pioneers utilized and found purpose in the land and that appears to be the foundation of this unique law. That land is not meant to remain idle.
The requirements for adverse possession to take place is when a party has openly utilized a property consecutively for 20 years. A home owner who has allowed such a practice to take place without interference could lose their ownership rights under this law.
A common occurrence where this law has been used is when a neighbor has encroached upon his neighbors land with a fence. This possession is referred to as “open and notorious” use. The possessor has to have utilized the property exclusively and without the title owners consent. Tacking is a term for adverse possession when multiple owners have received title to the property over a period of years. Again, a property has to be used continuously for 20 years to claim adverse possession.
The message or take away from this article is to be proactive with your ownership rights and to be aware of your boundary lines. Surveys are a great beginning in determining boundary lines and under Massachusetts state law no one is allowed to remove survey stakes.
Another suggestion that can help you but may not be fail-safe is the posting of a “No Trespassing” sign. It gives notice but is very open ended and not specific Demarcate your property boundaries with fences, hedges, gates or the like to contain your boundaries and document in writing any permissions granted for use of land.
This material is intended to provide basic information and you should consult your attorney to understand all your of rights.