Adverse Possession

What Is Adverse Possession?

Adverse Possession is the act of someone occupying a piece of land belonging to another without the owner’s consent. If occupation of the land is exclusive and for ten years (for registered land) or 12 years (for unregistered land), then the occupier, or ‘squatter’ may be able to make a successful application to HM Land Registry so that the owner of the paper title, at HM Land Registry will not be able to recover the land and the squatter will be entitled to have the land registered in their name at HM Land Registry.

The principle behind adverse possession is that owners need to make productive use of their land. Any property which is not maintained can become an eyesore, and the buildings can even pose a danger to life if they are neglected. The cost of dealing with abandoned properties can fall on local authorities or neighbours, which means the legal owner has technically infringed the rights of others.

As adverse possession barristers, we provide pre-action advice, including advice on the evidence required to support or defend a claim for adverse possession; our adverse possession practice also includes advice on the merits of a claim on negotiation and mediation. In the event that it is necessary to take a dispute to a hearing we have substantial experience in preparing for hearings in all tribunals and courts.

(Un)registered Land

Simply put, registered land refers to property kept on record by HM Land Registry, whereas unregistered land refers to property with no details recorded at the Land Registry. Since 1990 it has been compulsory when buying unregistered land to apply to have the land registered within two months of a sale completing.

With no Land Registry documentation, the owner will need to show proof of ownership by producing ‘root of title’, in other words, the chain of paperwork, including deeds and other historic documents. Therefore, it is very important owners of unregistered land, to keep all the original deeds safe. The conveyancer acting for any prospective buyer or lender will need to examine them carefully to check your title and any other matters that may affect the property.

If the land subject to an application for adverse possession is unregistered, the occupier must have occupied the land for 12 years prior to making any application.

Alternatively, where the land subject to an application for adverse possession is registered, the occupier must have occupied the land for ten years prior to making any application. The Land Registration Act 2002 (“LRA 2002”) came into effect on 13 October 13 2003 and set out the current process for adverse possession applications for registered land.

Applications for Adverse Possession

Usually, an application for adverse possession requires a comprehensive witness statement addressing the main elements for adverse possession, as well as any legal issues applicable to that case. The application is initially usually made to an adjudicator at HM Land Registry, but if defended will usually be referred up to the First Tier Property Tribunal or to a Court.

Our barristers at Mercantile Barristers are regularly instructed to pursue and defend adverse possession applications to the Land Registry, First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), and all court levels in England & Wales. Our barristers also have experience in advising on associated work including evidence, legal principles, procedure, statutory declarations and ADV1/FR1 forms.

Contact our Property Litigation barristers today by filling in our Enquiry Form; emailing us at; or by telephone on 0203 034 0077 and we would be happy to assist.

How Our Process Works

Instructing our direct access barristers is the cost effective alternative to the traditional route of engaging a solicitor first.  The process is just as straightforward. Here’s how the process works:
You can call, email, or fill out an enquiry form to tell us about your case. One of our specialist clerks will speak with  you to make the arrangements to advance your case.

You can call, email, or fill out an enquiry form to tell us about your case. One of our specialist clerks will speak with you to make the arrangements to advance your case.

Our specialist clerk will match you with the barrister with the expertise to deal with all aspects of your case. They will also obtain and organise the papers the barrister will have to consider in your case.

Our clerk will agree the fee for your consultation with the barrister beforehand. The clerk will then arrange a convenient time for you to have the consultation by video call, telephone or in person.

In the consultation the barrister will assess your legal position, devise a legal strategy, and give you appropriate advice on the necessary next steps to achieve your objective. 

Fill in the form below and one of our specialist clerks will get in touch.

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