Adverse Possession Essay

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Imagine that one day you own a beautiful house that you purchase with the money that you save for years. You hope to someday pass it to your children, but for now you are safekeeping it. Finally that day comes and you could not be happier. However, you find a sad truth: someone else now owns your house. This can be done in New York, and, as shown by certain high profile cases, in other states as well, through an old legal doctrine known as adverse possession. Adverse possession is a process by which premises can change ownership by using a property for a period of time without paying for it. In order for someone claiming title by adverse possession, they have to prove the following five elements: 1. hostile; 2. actual; 3. open and notorious; 4. exclusive; and 5. continuous for the required period (10 years in New York). If 51% of these elements are verified, the person validating them then becomes the owner of the land and/or property in question. If you think that these five elements are easy to prove, then you are right. Moreover, due to the easement in proving these five elements, on July 07, 2008, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would bar a claim of adverse possession if the person making the claim has “actual knowledge” that the property is owned by someone else. Basically, the same five elements must be established today, except instead of the first element “hostile,” it must be “hostile and under claim of right (inter alia).” Pursuant to Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §501 (3), “a claim of right means a reasonable basis for the belief that the property belongs to the adverse possessor or property owner, as the case may be.” In addition, Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law §522 states, “an awareness that others own the property within the statutory 10-year-period will defeat any claim of right.” Now that sounds confusing.

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