When owning property, it is important to remain aware of the property’s boundaries for many reasons, with one being that it allows you to combat issues relating to adverse possession. Adverse possession is defined as the right of a hostile party to own a property, or parts of it, after a certain period of time given that the real owner took no action regarding the encroachment. There are specific sets of requirements the hostile party must have fulfilled in order for California courts to accept a claim of adverse possession.
Adverse possession issues and agreements
A distinction should be made between adverse possession issues and agreements between two parties to share a space. For example, you and your neighbor may agree to share the front lawn of your properties and jointly garden in that space. However, if that neighbor (without your permission) occupies the front lawn, uses it as his own property, and meets the other criteria for adverse possession, they can then claim ownership of your front lawn.
Based on previous cases, courts in California have determined the elements that must be met for an adverse possession claim to be registered. The claimant must prove: first, their possession of the property; second, actual occupation of the property; third, hostile possession; fourth, continuous possession for at least five years; and fifth, payment of property taxes. With the previous example, the neighbour must have occupied the front lawn for at least five years, had exclusive ownership of that lawn, did it without your permission, and paid the property taxes that cover both lawns.
As the rightful owner of a property, if you notice that someone has trespassed on your land, bring up the issue with the trespasser. If asking for an end to the encroachment does not stop the hostile occupation, then consult with an experienced attorney in order to find legal instruments to solve the issue.