Adverse Possession: Continuous Trespassers' Rights
When a trespasser continues trespassing for an extended period of time, the law may give the trespasser the right to stay on the land. This right is known as "adverse possession." Adverse possession rights range from the right to live on the land, to the right to pass across it to get somewhere else.
Requirements for Adverse Possession
If a piece of property has been used by someone other than the owner for a number of years, the doctrine of adverse possession may apply. State laws vary with respect to time requirements; however, typically, the possession by the non-owner needs to be open, notorious, and under a claim of right. In some states, the non-owner must also pay the property taxes on the occupied land. A permissive use of property eliminates the ability to claim adverse possession.
Avoiding Adverse Possession: Permission
One common form of trespassing is when a neighbor's driveway or fence encroaches onto someone else's land. Sometimes the owner will not want to make an issue of the encroachment -- either because it seems to be a minor problem or because the neighbor is a friend. To avoid problems later, however, the owner should give the "trespasser" written permission to keep the encroachment for as long as the owner continues to authorize it. If properly handled, this document will prevent the trespasser from acquiring a right to continue the encroachment and from passing along this right to future owners.