Farm Owners Claim Title to Land by Adverse Possession

Inna Kraner, J.D.

Written by
— Updated on October 27, 2017

farm This case involves a farm owner that had a dispute with a neighbor over a strip of land. The western boundary line of the farm was approximately a half mile long and physically defined by a wire fence and hedgerow. The hedgerow had wild shrubs and many trees that had grown around the fence. The farm owner had maintained the northern half of the fence in reasonably good condition. However, the southern portion had fallen into disrepair and could no longer sufficiently constrain their livestock. Additionally, the southern neighbor in the case had recently decided to take up a flourishing beekeeping operation, causing stray insect swarms to move across the border from property to property. The neighbors had a survey done when they first bought their land parcel that found that their property extended about 4 feet past the fence at the northern end of the property and up to 11 feet at the southern end. The farm owner had always cultivated the field along the fence or used it as pasturage for over 30 years. The disputed property area had always been under the farm owner’s exclusive control. The farm owner brought a suit claiming that they owned title to the disputed area by adverse possession.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. In a boundary dispute between two neighbors, can one of the neighbors who has used a strip of land for over 30 years claim title to the land though adverse possession?

Expert Witness Response

Adverse possession lawsuits usually involve boundary disputes where a fence separates two pieces of land. The homeowner who brings the suit usually claims that they gained title to the disputed piece of land through adverse possession. This claim is based on the homeowner’s continuous possession of the land for a period of over 10 years. Under the laws of most states, a person who seeks to claim absolute title to a piece of land through adverse possession must establish that their possession of the land was: (1) continuous; (2) hostile or adverse; (3) actual; (4) open, notorious, and exclusive; and (5) under claim of title inconsistent with that of the true owner. Since the farm owner in this case cultivated the disputed strip of land year after year, this probably means that they can claim the title by adverse possession. Also, since the farm owner managed and controlled all of the land east of the fence, this shows that they exercised “open, notorious, and exclusive” possession of the disputed strip of land. Since the fence and the hedgerow created a clearly discernable boundary line from the northern edge to the southern edge of the property, the farm owner could probably claim absolute title by adverse possession.

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