Adverse Possession Solicitors

Whether you want to claim land you have been occupying for a long period of time, someone is trying to claim possession of your land under the law of adverse possession, or you need to evict a tenant or former tenant who will not leave your property, our specialist adverse possession solicitors are on hand to provide you with clear, practical advice on how to proceed.

Adverse possession, also referred to as “squatters’ rights”, is a legal method of obtaining ownership of land which does not belong to the long-term occupier (who is occupying without the consent of the legal owner), but which they are entitled to claim due to a long period of occupation. Due to the complexity of the law in this area and the difficult claims process, it is absolutely crucial that you instruct an experienced adverse possession lawyer to handle the case on your behalf to ensure your chances of succeeding are not hindered by procedural errors.

At Smooth Commercial Law, we assist in all manner of adverse possession matters, from bringing or defending a claim, to evicting tenants, squatters or travellers, to enforcing Possession Orders through the county courts or the High Court.

In many adverse possession claims, it is not necessary for the claimant to go to court. Our lawyers are experts in negotiation, so wherever possible (for example, if the adverse possession claim arises due to a boundary dispute) we can help you settle the matter amicably, out of court.

Where it is necessary to go to court, for example to obtain a Possession Order against squatters or travellers, we will ruthlessly fight your corner to enforce your rights as a landowner or occupier.

Contact our adverse possession solicitors today to discuss your situation in detail by calling 0800 051 2241, emailing sb@smooth-commercial-law.co.uk, or by completing the simple enquiry form at the top of the page.

How our adverse possession solicitors can help you

Our highly skilled adverse possession solicitors have years of experience assisting clients with all types of adverse possession claims, including:

  • Making an adverse possession claim
  • Defending an adverse possession claim
  • Possession claims against tenants or former tenants
  • Possession claims against travellers or squatters
  • Enforcing Possession Orders through the county courts
  • Enforcing Possession Orders through the High Court

Adverse possession claims

If you have been in possession of land belonging to someone else for a decade or longer, you may be entitled to apply to the Land Registry to become the registered proprietor, replacing the current owner.

Our adverse possession solicitors have a wealth of experience advising clients in relation to the merits of their case, making the relevant Land Registry applications, and assisting with any disputes raised by the current owners of the land should they choose to object to your claim.

In all adverse possession claims, the squatter needs to show that:

  • The squatter has ‘factual possession’ of the land – this is defined as an ‘appropriate degree of physical control’ and this must be ‘single possession’, meaning the legal owner cannot also occupy the land.
  • The squatter intends to possess the land and their use of the land must be ‘equivocal’ to the intention. This means, for example, that using the land as an access point to the squatter’s own land does not give rise to an intention to occupy alone (but it may give rise to an easement – a right to use or enter another’s property).
  • The owner of the land has not consented to the squatter’s possession, otherwise the squatter is actually occupying under a licence.

There are also additional requirements to an adverse possession claim which vary depending on whether the land you want to claim is registered at the Land Registry or unregistered.

Adverse possession of unregistered land

Under the Limitation Act 1980, an owner of land has no legal recourse to recover land from 12 years after their action to recover arose. This means, if a squatter occupies land for a period of 12 years or more, the owner does not have an automatic right to object to their adverse possession claim.

Therefore, if you have occupied unregistered land for 12 years or more, our adverse possession solicitors can help you make an application to the Land Registry to register the land in your name.

Adverse possession of registered land

Registered land means the title of the land is registered at the Land Registry with details of the current owner and any other legalities affecting the title such as mortgages and rights of way.

Adverse possession of 12 years alone will not of itself affect the ownership of registered land.

If the land you are occupying is registered, after ten years you are entitled to apply to the Land Registry to become the registered proprietor (owner) of the land. The Land Registry will subsequently contact the current proprietor informing them of the application and giving them the opportunity to object. If they do not object within two years, you are registered as the proprietor.

If the current owner objects to the application, the adverse possession claim will fail unless:

  • You and the owner own adjoining land and:
    • The boundary has not been determined
    • You are in adverse possession under the reasonable mistaken belief that you’re the owner
    • The application relates to land registered more than a year prior
  • It would be ‘unconscionable’ for the current owner to prevent the squatter’s application from succeeding
  • There is another reason the application should not fail. For example, if the land was left to the squatter in a Will but it was never legally transferred into their name.

Adverse possession of leasehold land

Adverse possession of unregistered leaseholds

Where a squatter begins occupying unregistered leasehold land, the tenant of the land loses the right to recover the land after 12 years, however they can still surrender the lease to the landlord (allowing the landlord to grant a lease to a new tenant and evict any trespassers).

For this reason, the Land Registry will only allow a squatter to claim adverse possession if:

  • There is no registered freehold or leasehold reversion.
  • There is very little chance of lease surrender which could lead to a possession claim against the squatter.

Adverse possession claims of unregistered leaseholds are rare as the law states all leases over seven years must be registered.

Adverse possession of registered leaseholds

Where a squatter occupies registered leasehold land for over 10 years, the tenant does not have the right to surrender the lease. Therefore, if the adverse possession claim is successful, the lease will be registered in the squatter’s name.

However, the squatter cannot claim adverse possession against the landlord’s registered freehold until the lease expires and they occupy the land for 10 years.

Defending adverse possession claims

If you have been notified of an adverse possession claim against your land by a squatter, our adverse possession lawyers can help you object to the application, including providing advice in relation to the application, preparing and filing objections at the Land Registry, and providing advice and representation at any Tribunal proceedings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution for adverse possession

Where the Land Registry registrar decides there are grounds for an objection to an adverse possession claim, they will recommend the squatter and owner attempt to negotiate in order to settle the dispute without resorting to Tribunal proceedings.

Our adverse possession solicitors are highly experienced in negotiation tactics and we value settling disputes amicably wherever possible to save the time, costs, and stress of going through the litigation process.

However, if Alternative Dispute Resolution does not work for you, we will provide you with practical advice and robust representation during any Tribunal proceedings, so you have the best possible chance of the matter being settled positively in your favour.

Possession claims against tenants and former tenants

In the vast majority of assured shorthold tenancies, landlords and tenants enjoy a harmonious relationship and the tenancy agreement is respected by all parties.

However, when the tenancy legally ends or the landlord needs the property back for whatever reason, there are some unfortunate situations where the tenant or former tenant may refuse to leave.

Our property solicitors can advise you in relation to:

  • Legally ending a tenant’s tenancy by serving notice
  • Starting possession proceedings in the County Court to evict the tenant
  • Claims against tenants or former tenants, for example, for rent arrears
  • Enforcing Possession Orders through the county courts or the High Court

Possession claims against travellers and squatters

If travellers or squatters are trespassing on your land, it is possible to apply to court for a Possession Order to evict them.

Even if you do not know the identities of the people occupying your land, our property lawyers can help you start a claim against ‘persons unknown’, arrange for an agent to serve the claims on the trespassers, and represent you during any court proceedings and fiercely fight your corner should the trespassers defend the claim.

Enforcing Possession Orders through the High Court

You should never attempt to evict trespassers on your land yourself. As well as opening yourself up to potential harm, you may risk being accused of assault which could lead to criminal proceedings.

To enforce a Possession Order quickly, we can apply to the High Court on your behalf for a Warrant for Possession (also known as a Writ of Possession). Using this process, a certified High Court Bailiff will evict the trespassers for you.

We can also deal with goods left behind in premises after possession has been obtained. 

Why choose our adverse possession lawyers?

At Smooth Commercial Law, we specialise in providing a unique range of commercial law services to clients from all backgrounds. We offer a truly bespoke service which ensures all our clients receive advice which is thoughtfully tailored to their individual circumstances.

Our adverse possession lawyers have an exceptional range of experience across all areas of adverse possession, from “squatters’ rights” claims, to possession claims against tenants and trespassers. Our solicitors strive to understand your goals and concerns and keep them central to the centre of your instruction at all times.

Because of our dedication to working with all types of clients, whether they are making the adverse possession claim or defending one, we can offer insight into both sides of any dispute meaning we can always approach your case from a position of strength and knowledge.

Smooth Commercial Law is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Get in touch with our adverse possession solicitors today

For further advice and information, contact our adverse possession solicitors today by calling 0800 051 2241, emailing sb@smooth-commercial-law.co.uk , or by completing the simple enquiry form at the top of the page.