San Antonio, TX asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Alabama

Q: Can someone steal your land by illegally placing a trail or home on the land?

1 Lawyer Answer
Samuel G McKerall
Samuel G McKerall
Answered

A: It depends on the length of time the trailer has been there and on the presence or absence and nature of any communications between the landowner and the owner of the trailer. Here's the principle involved:

Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as "squatter's rights",[a] is a legal principle that applies when a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land (real property)—attempts to claim legal ownership based upon a history of possession or occupation of the land without the permission of its legal owner.[1]

In general, a property owner has the right to recover possession of their property from unauthorized possessors through legal action such as ejectment. However, in the English common law tradition, courts have long ruled that when someone occupies a piece of property without permission and the property's owner does not exercise their right to recover their property for a significant period of time, not only is the original owner prevented from exercising their right to exclude, but an entirely new title to the property springs up in the adverse possessor. In effect, the adverse possessor becomes the property's new owner.[2][b] Over time, legislatures have created statutes of limitations that specify the length of time that owners have to recover possession of their property from adverse possessors. In the United States, for example, these time limits vary widely between individual states, ranging from as low as five years to as many as 40 years.[3]

In Alabama, the statute of limitations is 10 years in some cases and 20 years in others. If you think you have this problem, please contact a competent real estate lawyer as soon as you can. Its an easy fix if the problem hasn't existed for the requisite length of time. After that, it can still usually be fixed, but not always.

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