Most land and property owners are unfamiliar with the term adverse possession in real estate law. In simple language, it is a legal doctrine that could allow another to gain rights to or ownership of your property.
It sounds like a story from the old west. A squatter sneakily takes residence on someone’s land, usually without permission, and remains until the landowner loses the right to remove them.
Can it happen in 21st century America?
It can, but it probably won’t resemble the above scenario. While someone can attempt to take over your land purposely, most of the time, it happens accidentally.
Under Mississippi law, several things must happen for adverse possession to occur legally.
- The possessor uses the property openly (not secretly)
- The possessor resides on the land for ten continuous years
- The possessor pays taxes on the property for two or more years
- The possessor never gets the owner’s permission to occupy the land (hostile possession)
It may sound impossible, but sometimes it is easy for someone to use or possess another’s land for ten years without their realization. Adverse possession is an even greater risk for those who own land in different locations or many adjacent plots.
Survey your land (in person) often to deter trespassers and remind your neighbors not to encroach on it, even accidentally. Know your property lines and set clear boundary markers such as fences or walls.
Take immediate action if you discover someone living on or using your property without your awareness. If you wait too long, you could lose a portion of your land forever. Periodically refreshing your knowledge of Mississippi real estate laws is another way to help you protect your property.