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In almost every real property transaction, you must pay money to the owner of a piece of real property before you can claim it as your own. However, there is one path to owning property that does not require a person to pay you a single penny. If you own any property in New York, your rights could be affected by adverse possession.

Adverse possession is a legal doctrine whose roots trace back hundreds of years to the English common law. However, it is still recognized in New York as a valid method whereby a person can obtain legally recognized ownership over a property. But how can adverse possession be obtained exactly?

5 Elements of Obtaining Adverse Possession in New York

To adversely possess property is to do more than simply squat or refuse to leave when the owner asks. Instead, if a person wants to claim ownership over real property based on adverse possession, they must show the following five elements:

1. The Claimant Openly and Notoriously Possessed the Property

To obtain adverse possession in New York, the claimant must demonstrate that they openly and notoriously possessed the property. Open and notorious possession means that the person occupied the land so that the true property owner knew or should have reasonably known the person was there. 

This could involve moving personal property into the yard, putting one’s name on the mailbox, or hosting outdoor parties.

2. The Possession Was Hostile to the True Owner’s Rights

A possession must also be shown to be hostile to the true owner’s rights. Under New York law, “hostile” simply means that a possession infringes on the true owner’s rights.

This means that the owner cannot have permitted the person to live or occupy the owner’s property. Instead, the person seeking to establish adverse possession must show that they occupied the property with the reasonable belief that it was their own and no one else’s.

3. Their Use of the Property Was Exclusive

Additionally, a person seeking to claim adverse possession needs to show that they alone cared for and improved the property in question. Exclusive use does not mean that no other person used the property, but rather that no other person made efforts to manage the property at the same time.

4. The Person Was Actually Possessing the Property

The fourth element of an adverse possession claim requires that the person actually be in possession of the property. While the individual does not need to be present on it every moment of every day, their claim cannot succeed if they are only present sporadically.

5. These Actions Continued for a Period of 10 Years

Finally, all of these actions must have continued uninterrupted for a period of 10 years. Any disruption is potentially sufficient to stop the adverse possession period and require the person seeking to claim adverse possession to start the 10-year period over again.

For example, suppose that someone has been meeting the requirements of adverse possession in relation to a particular property for nine years. Then, the person leaves the property to handle personal business, and unbeknownst to this person, someone else comes to take care of the property. 

Even if this lasts for only a month, it would interrupt the 10-year period and could defeat an adverse possession claim.

Turn to a Manhattan Real Estate Litigation Attorney 

If you are facing someone who is claiming ownership through adverse possession, the success of that claim will depend on the facts of your situation. To protect your best interests, it is essential to consult a knowledgeable New York real estate litigation attorney from Levy Goldenberg LLP. 

Our experienced team can carefully investigate the claim and develop a tailored strategy for resolving the dispute as efficiently as possible. Contact Levy Goldenberg LLP to safeguard your rights and schedule your consultation today.