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What is adverse possession?

A recent post here focused on boundary issues that can develop between neighboring landowners. When landowners proactively address the conflicts that exist between them, there isn't always a need to draw up new property descriptions to establish land borders. However, when land is subject to unresolved conflicts and is used by individuals who do not properly hold title to it, landowners may find that their rights to their own property have changed.

The legal concept of "adverse possession" is one way that property rights may transfer from one individual to another without the original owner's consent. Minnesota has an adverse possession law, and here we will discuss some of the necessary elements of fulfilling the requirements of adverse possession.

In order for adverse possession to be successful, an individual must, without interruption, openly occupy land that is not his for a long period of time. In Minnesota, that period of open occupation is 15 years. The property user must be the only one who is using the land and generally must make improvements to the land rather than simply claim that the land is his without any outward signs of ownership. The occupier of the land must occupy the land without the permission of the actual owner.

If the land occupier is able to satisfy these and other statutorily provided requirements, he may successfully claim ownership to the land and take title. Adverse possession is not always a straightforward way of acquiring land, but it can become relevant when individuals use property that is not theirs without the interference of the legitimate title holders.

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