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What are the adverse possession rules in California?

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2021 | Real Estate Litigation

Most people acquire property by purchasing it or inheriting it. However, some people aren’t in a position to acquire property that way. They might instead decide to lay claim to a vacant piece of land or even a house that’s sitting unoccupied. 

If someone occupying or using a piece of real estate does so long enough without the owner fighting back, the owner could potentially lose the property to the person living there without their permission. 

Adverse possession is the legal process by which a squatter or non-owner assumes legal ownership of a piece of property that previously belonged to someone else. How does adverse possession work in California?

The person claiming the property must live there openly for years

For a squatter or non-owner occupant to establish an adverse possession claim to a property, they will need to openly take possession of the property and start using it. Only after five years of occupation is a claim of adverse possession possible. In fact, the person occupying the land has to not only live there but also pay taxes on the property. 

Once that occupying individual has met the obligation to stay at the property and pay taxes on it for five years, they can potentially go to court to seek ownership of the property. However, if the owner of record has a medical disability, that time frame increases to a full twenty years. 

Property owners can protect themselves against adverse possession claims through frequent inspections and the timely eviction of any occupants there without permission. Learning more about real estate laws in California can help you protect your investment in your property.