Adverse possession is a legal concept that has been around for centuries. It allows a person to claim ownership of a property that they have used, maintained, and possessed openly and continuously for a certain period of time, even if they do not have legal title to the property. In Arkansas, adverse possession is governed by specific common law requirements as well as a statute, all of which must be satisfied before a claim for adverse possession can be successful.
What Is Adverse Possession?
Adverse possession is the process by which a person can acquire ownership by using and occupying property as though it is their own. This is based on the principle that if someone has been using and occupying a piece of property for a long enough period of time without challenge from the legal owner, they should be allowed to claim ownership of the property. The public policy that supports this is the idea that as a society we do not want land to sit unused when others could make economic or other use of it.
Essential, adverse possession is a "use it or lose it" concept. If a legal owner of property does not take steps to assert their ownership rights over a period of time, they can lose their land. Thus, it is always advisable that owners routinely check their property for signs of use by others.
Requirements in Arkansas
In Arkansas, to establish a claim for adverse possession, certain requirements must be met. These include:
- Open and Notorious Possession: The possession of the property must be open and notorious, meaning that it is visible and apparent to anyone who might pass by the property. This means that the claimant must use and occupy the property in a way that is visible to the public.
- Continuous Possession: The claimant must possess the property continuously for a period of seven years. This means that the claimant must use and occupy the property as if they were the legal owner for the entire seven-year period without interruption.
- Exclusive Possession: The claimant must possess the property exclusively. This means that they must be the only ones using and occupying the property during the seven-year period. If other people are using or occupying the property, the claimant cannot establish a claim for adverse possession.
- Hostile Possession: The possession of the property must be hostile to the legal owner. This means that the claimant must use and occupy the property without the permission of the legal owner. However, this does not mean that the claimant must act with ill will or animosity towards the legal owner. It simply means that the claimant must use and occupy the property without the legal owner's permission.
- Actual Possession: The claimant must have actual possession of the property. This means that they must physically use and occupy the property in a way that is consistent with their claim of ownership and is done in such a way that a title owner would use the land.
- Payment of Taxes: The claimant must have paid ad valorem taxes on the parcel or on an adjacent and contiguous parcel every year for the seven years prior to their claim. This is a statutory requirement.
If these requirements are met, the claimant may be able to establish a claim for adverse possession in Arkansas.
If you are considering making a claim for adverse possession in Arkansas, it is important to consult with an experienced real estate attorney who can guide you through the process and help you navigate the complexities of the law. If you are a landowner, it is imperative you take swift action to prevent this from happening.