As a property owner in New Jersey, your boundaries may overlap with that of your neighbors. Do you know that in such cases, your neighbors can claim your land title legally? Additionally, if there is an empty space in and around your house, where trespassers have settled down for a while now, they are also eligible to claim legal ownership of your property.
Strange as it may sound, New Jersey allows squatters and dwellers who have inhabited the place for a continuous period a legal right to claim ownership. Known as adverse possession of the property, these laws help the party seeking the title dispossess the legal owner of the unit by adverse possession.
How Do Adverse Possession Laws Work?
In the United States, adverse possession laws were originally adopted from the ancient Romans. They believed that the person who nurtured the land was more of an owner than the one who was a ‘titled’ owner. Due to its practicality and usefulness, the concept of adverse possession has made its way into the laws of many countries for centuries.
Adverse Possession Laws are primarily used to cite differences or settle boundary disputes between neighbors who have overlapping property boundaries. In simple terms, the adverse possession law states that if a person settles into a house, improves it, and possesses it publicly for an extended period of time, they will acquire the legal claim to the property, even though the rightful title is held by someone else.
The adverse possession law in New Jersey is regulated by the statute and the state’s court. The legal owner/titleholder of the property is under the presumption of ownership, till the trespasser proves otherwise. In other words, it is up to the trespasser to present proof of their alleged adverse possession and gather all evidence regarding the same during a legal argument.
Criteria For Claiming Adverse Possession
As a rental investment owner, the last thing you want is for someone to claim adverse possession of your unit. However, in most states of the US, including New Jersey, any person or a trespasser who wants to legitimately claim a particular piece of land must meet either of the following criteria –
If the trespasser has settled into the property without the knowledge or the permission of the owner while having knowledge that they are trespassing, they can have a hostile claim on the location. Additionally, if a person has settled without any knowledge of the houseowner, they can also have a hostile possession claim.
Actual use or possession, as the name suggests entails the person occupying the property to be physically present at the site, and be actively taking care of it. Only then they are eligible to claim the title.
Open and Notorious Possession
When the occupant doesn’t try to hide their possession of the place and is regularly seen by onlookers to be occupying the location, they have an open claim to the property. Their use of the location must be apparent and visible enough for them to be able to serve a legal notice to the actual owners.
Exclusive and Continuous Possession
If the trespasser alone has possession of the property, it is known as exclusive use. The trespasser can be legally allowed to claim the house as long as s/he is the sole occupant. Continuous possession occurs if a trespasser has occupied the place for a specific period, usually long-term. The time period differs from state to state. In New Jersey, it is 20 years for most types of properties and 30 years for uncultivated lands like woods.
Adverse possession of property can be a difficult and challenging process, for both parties. If you need any assistance regarding an adverse possession dispute, contact us at Robert A. Gleaner, P.C. in New Jersey for legal services.