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August 14, 2007

Last week, I did a post oneasements and promised to do a followup on adverse possession. My intention had been todo it sooner, but we were on a trip (seeing colleges and relatives out of state) and upon my return there was an awful lot ofrealty work that needed my very immediate attention. So please pardon my delay in explaining this concept.

In the discussion on easements, I explained that a prescriptive easment can happen if someone uses your property notoriously& conspicuously over a period of years without interruption.

With adverse possesion, it goes one step further. Not only does a person use another’s land notoriously, conspicuously,without interruption and for a period of years, but additionally that same person pays the taxes on the same land. By doingso, eventually the hostile takeover with taxes paid can result in a transfer of title! Every state has a law about the amountof time required and other factors, and in California the timeframe is 5 years.

Why do you need to know this? Will you ever use it in Los Gatos?

Maybe not. On the other hand, let’s say you have inherited a piece of property somewhere far away, and you’re not paying awhole lot of attention to it for some reason. If a neighbor there uses your land and pays the taxes for whatever period oftime is deemed necessary by that state, you will most likely loose your property.

An attorney I know told a story of a client of his who used adverse possession to obtain property in an obscure part ofCalifornia. The client’s land was adjacent to an unused parcel owned by a large utility company. This client used the landopenly etc. and paid taxes on it. The utlility company paid no attention – or perhaps really did not care – and after 5 years,and a little bit of legal legwork, that client obtained title to the land formerly owned by the utility. And boy was it acheap “purchase”!

So pay attention to your land and your taxes to protect your assets. It is unlikely you will be in a situation similar to thelawyer’s client, but you never know. It’s always good to understand your rights and risks.