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How Do I File for Adverse Possession in Wisconsin?

Some of the most common disputes between neighbors are over land. Many times, people can work out the problem between themselves, and there is no need for legal action. Sometimes, however, the situation is more challenging, especially when there is a big discrepancy. The rightful owner needs to take the neighbor to court to resolve the matter. An experienced litigation attorney will help you through the claim and assist you in proving your case in order to regain possession of your property.

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is a longstanding common law concept that describes the use of someone’s land by another. Possession simply means that the person was using the land as his or her own, taking possession of it. One owner may use land that actually should belong to the owner next door. This can occur in many ways. Someone may erect a fence or shed that encroaches onto the neighbor’s property. A person might start using land for a garden or for other purposes. Often, people do not realize that their land was taken over by someone else for years, sometimes decades. In some cases, the situation doesn’t come to light until the property is to be sold and a survey is done.

Elements of Adverse Possession

Adverse possession laws are in place, along with common law case law. There are five elements of adverse possession that you typically need to prove in order to win a claim. These include:

  • Actual possession
  • Hostile use
  • Open and notorious use
  • Continuous
  • Exclusive use

The presumption is that the true owner is the one in possession. You must prove that you are indeed the true owner of the property. The length of time that the person has had possession of the property in question matters to the outcome. Generally, possession takes place after 20 years of use. However, there are many cases and appeals that could be viewed to bolster your case, regardless of the time frame involved. For example, the time period is 10 years under color of title or seven years under color of title and payment of taxes.

Adverse Possession Claims

The property owner may provide the property user with permission to use the land. This negates the hostility factor and allows the owner to remove permission at any time. Often, adverse possession claims are not that simple. The owner may choose to file a court action to request a review of the actual property boundaries. Another option is for the owner to file an Affidavit of Interruption. This document stops the clock and interrupts the use of the property. However, the clock will restart again if the other party continues to use the property. It is important to note that the law does not allow adverse possession of government-owned property.

Adverse possession can be a complicated matter. Before you purchase any real property, you should always make sure that there are no adverse possession claims. Verify the property boundaries with a new land survey. If you are involved in a property dispute, it is best to seek guidance from a knowledgeable attorney. Contact us today at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online.

Published April 24, 2023
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