Can I Lose My Land Through Adverse Possession in Texas?
Myths abound about various aspects of Texas law, but this one is no myth. A person who trespasses and uses another person's land without the owner's permission may eventually become the owner of that land if certain criteria are met. Keep this in mind if a neighbor is encroaching on your property or you have a vacant lot you don't visit on a regular basis.
What is adverse possession?
Under Section 16.021 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, adverse possession is defined as “an actual and visible appropriation of real property, commenced and continued under a claim of right that is inconsistent with and is hostile to the claim of another person.” The first thing that may come to mind may be squatting, which is a thing of the past in the U.S. In fact, the most common way adverse possession comes into play is the otherwise innocuous fence line.
Adverse possession may be deemed to confer property ownership in three to ten years, depending on the situation.
Adverse possession is a two-way street
Adverse possession can confer property ownership on an encroaching party, but only if the actual owner does nothing to oust the intruder. In other words, it takes a combination of action on the intruder's part and inaction on the property owner's part.
What evidence is required to prove adverse possession?
In Texas, the elements of adverse possession include:
- Actual possession. The intruder must exercise physical possession in some way. Simply stating to others that he or she owns the property is not sufficient – actual physical possession, such and building fences or otherwise improving the property, must occur.
- Non-permissive possession. An invitee or legal tenant is not considered an intruder for adverse possession purposes.
- Claim of right. A claim of right could include an erroneous property survey or a fraudulent deed secured by the intruder in good faith.
- Open, notorious and continuous use. A property owner can't be expected to oust an intruder he doesn't know exists. For adverse possession rules to apply the intruder's presence on the property must be open and adverse to the true owner's ownership rights for a period of time.
Each case is different, but the bottom line is that an intruder must move onto property in a way that a diligent owner would notice.
How can I protect my property and maintain ownership?
The number one recommendation for property owners is to be diligent and enforce your property rights. The law generally does not favor a person who rests upon his rights. If your neighbor is putting up a fence, growing crops on your land or otherwise openly taking physical possession of your property, take action to enforce your rights before it's too late.
Call today to speak to an experienced real estate litigation attorney
At Peterson Law Group, our real estate litigation attorneys understand the nuances of adverse possession law in Texas and are prepared to protect your rights. Schedule a consultation today by calling 979-703-7014 or visit us online to request a meeting.