Under the Massachusetts Adverse Possession Real Estate Laws, a person may claim that land under title to another now belongs to him or her. If this sounds like something you might like to do; know that the path ahead is not easy. Cook v Babcock, 65 Mass. 206 (1853) determined that a person claiming adverse possession must prove “an actual, open, exclusive, and adverse possession of the land”. And, it’s an all or none deal.
These are the five components essential for alleged adverse possession in Massachusetts:
1. You are the only possessor of the parcel, you were physically present and acted like you owned it.
2. You exhibited an open possession visible to the land’s owner (notorious).
3. Using the land was suitable for the size, type and your use of the land.
4. You did not have the owner’s permission to possess the land.
5. You possessed the land for an uninterrupted 20 year period. If you just vacationed on the land intermittently, you do not have possession.
In addition, there are a couple of other hurdles to go through. According the Section 31 of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 260, an adverse possession action cannot be undertaken for conservation land, open space, water protection, wildlife protection, parks, recreation or other public purpose.
However, this section also says that Massachusetts government-owned property has no immunity from the 20-year statute of limitations for recovery of land except as noted above. So a party could bring an adverse possession claim forward on the commonwealth and its political subdivisions – this is not the case in most other jurisdictions.
Another exception to the adverse possession law is found in section 53 of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 185, which says that a party cannot bring an adverse possession claim against an owner holding title to registered land, easement or other right therein.
Note that an owner cannot bar a claim of adverse possession by citing his not knowing he owned the land. This does not seem fair but the law’s intent is to clear dormant land titles in the public interest despite a few owners losing their rights.