Unregistered Land - Ownership Search

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is in layman’s terms what used to be known as squatters rights – If you can prove that for a minimum period of time (usually 12 years) you have had exclusive possession of a piece of land or a building you can apply to the Land Registry for the first registration of that title, this basically means you can apply to become the owner of the land.  Adverse Possession is much simpler to do with unregistered land rather than land that is already registered.  See here for information regarding claiming unregistered land. An alternative is to try and locate the owner of unregistered land which can be easier as you can buy the land and have it as your own immediately rather than waiting 12 years and then letting land registry decide if you should be entitled to own it.

What is Adverse Possession

To acquire title by adverse possession the person must show they have had exclusive possession without the consent of the true owner for 12 years. The best evidence of this is to fence the land of so you only have access to it. Hence it is difficult to acquire title for footpaths and roadways, which many people use. Similarly, it isn’t grounds for a claim if someone parks their car occasionally on your land.

Registered land?

The Land Registration Act 2002 has reduced the required period to 10 years (the old rules still apply if a person had adverse possession for more than 12 years before the act came into force on Oct 13 2003). But it has made it much more difficult to get title this way.

The application will be automatically rejected unless the registered proprietor of the land has led you to believe that you did own it, and then the registered proprietor cannot change their mind and get the land back. Alternatively, you may be entitled to be registered as proprietor for some other reason; perhaps you have a contract to buy it.

Lastly, you may have been in adverse possession of land adjacent to your own under the mistaken but reasonable belief it belonged to you. This only applies if the boundary has not been determined by the Land Registry and where the land has been registered for more than a year. As you can see answering What is adverse possession is a complicated matter

The Land Registry “general boundaries rule” means one cannot rely on Land Registry plans to define a property exactly and it is often very difficult to prove from old deeds where the legal boundary is. So if someone can show that his garden fence has been in its current position for at least 10 years, he should be able to acquire title to any land on his side even if the neighbour can show the legal title is theirs.

If your application on registered land is rejected he true owner must evict you promptly. If you can show you have occupied the land for a further two years after the rejection of your original application, you will be entitled to be registered as the owner.

We hope we have helped answer What is Adverse Possession