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Adverse possession can be hard to prove in New York

On behalf of Steven Waldinger

This article looks at misconceptions about adverse possession and the law on it in New York.

Adverse possession is an ancient concept that is still extremely important in real estate law. Essentially, adverse possession allows for one party to make a claim to another party’s property if the first party has been making open and notorious use of the disputed land for a set number of years. Adverse possession tends to stir up quite a bit of debate, with critics of the concept arguing that it allows squatters to get property for free while defenders point out that criticism is often overblown and that actually making an adverse possession claim requires many difficult hurdles to be cleared, particularly in New York which amended its adverse possession laws in 2008 to make claims more difficult.

Misconceptions about adverse possession

As the New York Times reports, misconceptions about adverse possession can lead to property owners doing some unusual things. In New York City, for example, the garden courtyard at Lever House is closed for one day every year so that the property owner can reassert its claim to the courtyard. The closing of the courtyard has taken place once a year for more than half a century. Furthermore, plaques are set in the pavement around the property notifying the public that the courtyard, which is usually open to the public, is indeed private property.

Such stories are quaint, but the owners of Level House likely have little to worry about when it comes to an adverse possession claim being made on their property. For one, in New York for a party to make an adverse possession claim they must make open and notorious use of the property for 10 continuous years. Obviously, somebody using a private garden courtyard as though it were their own would likely be challenged before they could make any claim to it.

Resolving boundary disputes

Where adverse possession is more likely to come into effect concerns boundary disputes between neighbors. For example, say one neighbor builds a fence that encroaches upon a neighbor’s property. If the first neighbor openly uses the land that he has fenced off for ten years and the other neighbor doesn’t complain that his property is being used by the neighbor, then the first neighbor could conceivably make an adverse possession claim for that piece of land after ten years have passed.

However, in New York an adverse possession claim is difficult to make. As the Daily Record points out, in 2008 New York’s adverse possession laws were changed to tighten requirements for making a claim. Among the most significant changes is the fact that the person making the claim must now have a reasonable basis for believing that the disputed property belongs to them and that acts must be “sufficiently open” to give the owner an opportunity to challenge them.

Real estate law

Anybody who is involved in a real estate dispute, including an adverse possession claim, should contact a real estate attorney today. An experienced attorney can help clients resolve whatever dispute or issue they may have in a timely, efficient, and satisfactory manner.