A recent Circuit Court case on adverse possession is a cautionary tale for landowners. It highlights how an oversight can result in the loss of land.
Adverse possession can allow a person (without claim to the land) to become its owner without having to make any payment to the true owner. To do this that person has to be in occupation of the land for the relevant period in a manner which is inconsistent with the true owner's possession. The relevant period is usually 12 years but there are exceptions.
In a recent Circuit Court case, Byrne, a home owner in Marino secured a declaration that land of just under a quarter of an acre to the rear of her home now belonged to her. The land located behind certain houses and gardens in Marino was a left over portion of a construction site from 1934. It had been leased by the local authority as allotments to Byrne's grandparents. The Byrne family remained in possession but after some time no rent was paid. The local authority sought possession of the property in 1995 and served a notice to quit. However it never followed up on this. The Court was satisfied that Byrne was in adverse possession of the property for 12 years and granted a declaration that those lands were now hers.
Landowners should be live to the presence of third parties on their land without permission and take action to demonstrate ownership to avoid any such third parties acquiring ownership through adverse possession.