Even if the Government does take action to end the ancient law of adverse possession (‘squatters’ rights’), cases based on the law before any change will continue to come before the courts for several years.
The common factor in such cases is that the right can only be asserted when the owner of the land fails to take steps to prevent the exclusive possession of the land by the person who later claims ownership of it.
The Court of Appeal recently heard a case in which a strip of land was claimed by adverse possession and the right to register the title was granted by the lower court. The strip of land concerned was part of a property but was outside a hedge, which acted as the effective boundary between that land and a neighbour’s land. The neighbour claimed the right to register the strip of land up to the hedge.
The key issue was that the owner of the land had put in some fence posts along the actual boundary and started to erect a fence, but this was not completed. The landowner claimed that this was sufficient to show that he had retaken possession of the land.
Had this argument been successful, the landowner would have interrupted the ten years of unopposed occupation necessary to make an application to register title to land by adverse possession.
However, the Court ruled that the landowner’s action was not adequate to interrupt the adverse possession by the neighbour.