Belleville, KS asked in Real Estate Law for Kansas

Q: Next door neighbor wants to claim about six to eight feet of our property is theirs to

...enable them to install an electric line and additional lighting for their parking lot. They hired a private surveyor to justify their claim to the strip of land but we contest the result based on county land records. How should we proceed?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Scott C. Stockwell
Scott C. Stockwell
  • Lawrence, KS
  • Licensed in Kansas

A: Adverse possession is a concept that developed in the courts. If someone conspicuously and openly occupied a property for a long period of time, making use of the property, adding improvements, etc., they were in a position of becoming an de facto owner of the property. It was unfair to allow some absentee owner to show up many years later and claim what they have ignored and to inequitably benefit from the other person's industry. There are hundreds of cases, with hundreds of permutations, of property being claimed successfully and often unsuccessfully, by adverse possession.

The Kansas Legislature enacted a statutory standard that provides some clarity. The statute says, in relevant part:

60-503. Adverse possession. No action shall be maintained against any person for the recovery of real property who has been in open, exclusive and continuous possession of such real property, either under a claim knowingly adverse or under a belief of ownership, for a period of fifteen (15) years.

The statute provides a simple three-point test: (1) The possession must be "open, exclusive, and continuous"; (2) The claim must be "knowingly adverse" ('I know I don't own this property but I am going to be here anyway') or under a belief of ownership ('I thought it was my property and that's why I put that building there'); and (3) for a period of 15 years.

What is important is how a specific situation and the facts over a 15-year-plus period align with the law (the statute and the cases that interpret and expand on it). You should consult with an attorney who can help you to identify the facts and law that will clarify whether the claim for adverse possession is valid.

Anthony M. Avery
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A: You have a boundary dispute. If the adjoining owner puts in the line, and you do nothing, you acquiesce to the new ascertainable boundary. Hire a KS attorney to search both titles, and get a boundary line survey. You may have to sue for a boundary dispute, so put your witnesses together now. Both properties now have clouds on their titles.

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