9 November 2012 by

Is possession really 9/10 of the law?

On 13 October 2003 Schedule 6 of the Land Registration Act 2002 introduced a new regime to the law of adverse possession in respect of registered land.
The new regime intended to make the system of adverse possession more balanced between the landowner and the squatter and favours the landowner. The effect is that a squatter can no longer simply rely on their possession of a property for a period of 12 years as an automatic route to acquire the right to be registered as the owner of registered land.

This regime only applies to registered land. The law on adverse possession prior to the Land Registration Act 2002 continues to apply to unregistered land and to registered land where the possession relied upon is for a period of at least 12 years ending before 13 October 2003.

Under the new regime for registered land:

  • A registered title cannot be automatically extinguished and the registered owner is not time barred in taking action for recovery of registered land.
  • If a squatter has been in adverse possession of the land for a period of 10 years he or she will need to make a successful application for registration in order to deprive a registered owner of his/her ownership of the land.
  • Upon making such an application, the registered owner (and any interested party) will be notified of the application and given an opportunity to oppose the application.
  • If the application is not opposed, the squatter will be registered as the new owner of the land.
  • If the application is opposed, it will be rejected unless the squatter can satisfy one of the following three grounds:

(1) It would be unconscionable because of an equity by estoppel for the registered owner to seek to dispossess the squatter and the squatter ought to in the circumstances be registered as the new owner.

(2) The squatter is, for some other reason, entitled to be registered as the owner.

(3) The squatter has been in possession of land adjacent to their own in the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it (there are various qualifying conditions to this point)

  • Where an application is rejected but the squatter remains in adverse possession for a further 2 years he/she will be able to reapply to be registered as the owner (subject to certain exceptions e.g. that the registered owner has not taken any legal action to remove the squatter from the land following the rejection of the initial application etc.) and on such an application the squatter will be registered whether or not the application is opposed.

It will depend on the facts of each individual case as to whether or not any of those three grounds can be satisfied. To date there is no reported case law in respect of the first two grounds. There are recently reported cases in relation to ground three which suggests that the most likely scenario is where the squatter makes an application in respect of land which is adjacent to their own under the mistaken but reasonable belief that they are the owner of it. In the cases of Zarb v Parry [2011] EWCA Civ 1306 and IAM Group Plc v Chowdrey [2012] EWCA Civ 505, the courts on both occasions found in favour of the squatters broadly on this basis.

We refer you to a previous blog entitled “Squatters – a change in the law” click here for the link: which states that it is now a criminal offence to squat in a residential property. Interestingly, the criminal offence of squatting in a residential property does not prevent a squatter who has been in adverse possession of a property for 10 years from applying to be a registered owner under the Land Registration Act 2002. It has yet to be seen how this anomaly in the law will be played out in practice.

If you think you may have a claim to adverse possession or need assistance in defending such a claim or are considering issuing proceedings for a declaration of boundaries to protect your interest, please contact Sharmain Thomas on 020 7288 4782.

10 October 2012 by

Collins guilty of harassment

Judge John Plumstead sentenced Collins to carry out 140 hours of unpaid community service over the next 18 months and ordered him to pay £3,500 in prosecution costs. He told Collins the service would be “humbling work” that would “make you pause and think about what you have done.” Collins is said to have shown no emotion as he was sentenced.

1 November 2012 by

EU Review, or should that be Revue?

On 24th October 2012 the European Commission announced that it had asked the UK Government to review the limited spouse exemption from inheritance tax which applies where a UK-domiciled person dies and assets pass to their non-UK domiciled spouse.

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