WHAT IS ADVERSE POSSESSION IN CONNECTICUT?
It is commonly thought that you can acquire ownership of real property through “squatter’s rights;” by using someone else’s property and then eventually being able to legally claim it as your own. This is actually the legal concept known as adverse possession. Adverse possession originates from common law and is now a part of the law of most states in varying forms. Generally speaking, adverse possession refers to a method of obtaining title to real property that has not been deeded to you.
However, proving a claim of adverse possession is an involved process. Under Connecticut law, a claim for adverse possession requires that certain factors be proven. The party claiming adverse possession must show their possession is open, visible, exclusive, continuous and uninterrupted and under a claim of right, for a period of fifteen years. Proving a claim of adverse possession requires a judicial proceeding involving the party claiming adverse possession and all the parties who are the record title holders or who may claim an interest in the property. The party claiming the adverse rights must prove the required elements (open, visible, exclusive, continuous, and under a claim of right).
Adverse possession claims most commonly occur between neighbors along a disputed boundary line. Adverse possession cannot be used to make a claim against the state, a municipality, land owned by a non-profit land owning organizations (i.e. a land trust), or, with certain limits, investor owned water companies. A potential claim of adverse possession can be interrupted by a landowner serving a notice on the adverse party and recording the notice in the land records. In order for this interruption to continue, a judicial proceeding must be commenced within one year of the filing of the notice.
As should be clear from reading the above, adverse possession is a complicated area of the law. Pursuing or defending against a claim of adverse possession can be an expensive undertaking, requiring title searching, surveys and witness testimony. If a landowner is concerned that a portion of their land may be subject to a claim of adverse possession or if they feel they have the right to make an adverse possession claim, they are advised to consult an attorney experienced in this area of the law. Remember, time is on the side of the person trying to adversely possess the property.