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What Is Adverse Possession, and How Does it Affect Boundary Disputes?

 Posted on January 17, 2020 in Real Estate

Adverse possession, also loosely described as “squatter’s rights,” allows trespassers who openly inhabit a piece of property to gain possession of that property if they meet certain conditions. In other words, if a trespasser devotes enough time caring for a piece of property that the owner has abandoned or possibly forgotten about, and the owner makes no opposition to the trespasser and his/her actions, a court may award ownership of the property to the trespasser. To resolve issues related to adverse possession, it is important to work with a qualified real estate attorney.

Wisconsin Adverse Possession Laws

According to Wis. Stat. § 893.25, an individual must occupy property publicly for at least 20 years before ownership can be granted. In addition to this requirement, a person who wishes to gain possession of property must typically prove the following factors:

  • A “hostile” claim - This refers to the fact that the trespasser’s possession of the property is against the intentions of the owner. However, it does not necessarily mean that the trespasser acted wilfully or in an unfriendly manner. Hostile claims often involve honest mistakes, such as depending on a false deed or inhabiting land without knowing that it is another person’s private property.
  • Actual possession - A trespasser must have a physical presence on another person’s land while currently treating it as if it is their own property.
  • Open and notorious possession - A trespasser’s occupation of land cannot be done in secret, and it must be obvious to the owner of the property.
  • Exclusive and continuous possession - A trespasser must remain in control of the property without sharing it with others for a continuous length of time, which is generally 20 years in Wisconsin.

How Adverse Possession Is Addressed Through Real Estate Litigation

Commercial or residential real estate litigation may be necessary to address boundary disputes and claims of adverse possession. While a property owner may own a piece of property according to legal boundary lines, there are cases in which another person may be able to claim ownership of a portion of property based on their use of that property. During litigation, a trespasser may be able to show that they met the requirements for possessing land, allowing them to gain legal ownership of the property in their possession.

Contact a Milwaukee, Wisconsin Real Estate Litigation Attorney Today

Real estate litigation can be confusing and complex, but at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP we can help you address these matters and achieve a positive resolution to your case. If you are involved in a boundary dispute, contact a Milwaukee real estate lawyer at 414-271-7680.




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