Who Can Claim Property Based on Adverse Possession in Tennessee?
Franklin real estate attorney explains what you need to know about the law
You may be surprised to learn that the neighbor who has planted a flower bed on part of your property and who keeps mowing part of your lawn every week may actually have a claim to your property. Or you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can actually claim that plot of land where your shed rests on your neighbor’s property, thereby expanding your real estate holdings. Through a concept known as “adverse possession,” Tennessee law actually grants property rights to those who use a property that is not their own under some circumstances. The law is sometimes referred to as “squatter’s rights,” and it can either be something that threatens your property or something that you use to claim more property for yourself, depending on which side of the issue you are on.
But you can’t just plant a flag and claim any land for yourself in Tennessee. You have to meet certain criteria. Through most common circumstances, the criteria include:
- Hostile or adverse possession. You don’t have to have a hostile attitude – this just means that you are using the property without permission and against the rights of the owner.
- Actual possession. You must be exercising control over the portion of property in question, such as building on it or using it regularly.
- Exclusive possession. You must be the only one using that portion of the property. If the owner is also using it, you have no claim.
- Open, visible, and notorious use. Your use of the property must be known to the owner, or the owner has “constructive notice” of your use.
- Continuous use. You must use the property for at least 20 years, unless you have a color of title, which reduces the time to seven years.
“Color of title” is a legal term that refers to a legal document showing that you are the owner of the property, though the document proves to be invalid.
If you can prove that you meet the criteria for adverse possession or you can show that you meet the terms for having color of title, you can legally acquire a piece of property that you have been using. The same is true for anyone who is using a portion of your property. That’s why it is so important for you to be vigilant against actions by your neighbors. If you don’t take action when the guy next door builds that shed on a corner of land that is technically your legal property, and he takes you to court, that part of property could become legally his.
You’ll need an experienced real estate attorney to litigate these claims, whether you are trying to take legal possession of property or you are trying to defend your own property against a squatter. I’m Judy A. Oxford, a trusted Franklin real estate attorney who has been representing clients on both sides of this issue for years. If you are contending with an adverse possession claim, call my office today at (615) 791-8511 for a free consultation, or use the secure online form on my website to make an appointment. This complicated real estate issue is too important to try to handle on your own or to leave to someone who is not experienced or trusted. Let me help you assert your rights.