Explaining "adverse possession" -- squatter's delight

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44 Responses to “Explaining "adverse possession" -- squatter's delight”

  1. Sam Glover says:

    A key requirement is also that the possession be conspicuous. You can’t hide for 3 years and then jump out and claim adverse possession. The reason for the rule is the idea that property should be used (alienable).

    If you’re obviously using the property and the owner can’t be bothered to kick you out, then you’re making better use of the property. Since the owner doesn’t seem to care about the property, the law allows the squatter to become the owner in limited circumstances.

  2. Harold Combs says:

    It’s not nearly as easy as you make it sound and laws vary from state to state.  In the UK we were warned to NEVER leave a door or window unlocked or squatters would get in and “take over” our house and we would have little recourse.  In the US squatters broke into my fathers house while he was on deployment for 3 months and tried to claim Adverse Possession when he came back.  In the US, the laws are much more strict and they were forcibly evicted by the constabulary but they had trashed his house to the tune of $44K.

  3. millie fink says:

    Good info. How about summarizing that article’s practical details, putting them on a flyer, and handing them out to (soon no longer to be?) homeless people? I’ve heard that 11% of homes in the U.S. are currently unoccupied. Find the ones being squatted on by banks and possess them.

  4. GawainLavers says:

    The idea of “Adverse Possession” has a very ugly history here, in that it formed the moral framework (if you want to call it that) for citizens of the early states to move in and take over “unused” or “unimproved” native American territory.

    Frankly, I’d prefer a rule that built property that is “unused”and abandoned be razed.

    • Enoch_Root says:

      That is not entirely true as I understand it. While, adverse possession may have been used in specific circumstances to deprive Native Americans of land, there were other more significant doctrines at work beginning with Johnson v. M’Intosh

    • semiotix says:

      The idea of “Adverse Possession” has a very ugly history here, in that it formed the moral framework (if you want to call it that) for citizens of the early states to move in and take over “unused” or “unimproved” native American territory. Frankly, I’d prefer a rule that built property that is “unused”and abandoned be razed.

      Well, it was around as a concept in English common law well before the colonial period, but realistically the early European settlers took land from Native Americans by conquest (or threat of conquest), and if land was taken via adverse possession from Native Americans after they became subject to U.S. law, it was probably because they never held title to the land that was valid by 19th-century reckoning. Now, that’s eleven different kinds of racist and bad, but don’t confuse the tool with the tool-user.

      These days, adverse possession almost always works to the advantage of people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, at the (notional) expense of idle wealth. This, by the way, is why it’s so “controversial” when it happens. We’re not accustomed to seeing the little guy profit by what seems like legal trickery.

      As for unused, abandoned property being razed, all that does is destroy value, and it doesn’t solve the problem that adverse possession was created to solve in the first place, which is land that is unmaintained and/or of uncertain ownership.

      • GawainLavers says:

        I’m not saying that adverse possession was used _legally_, it was rather presented as the moral imperative that if land was “unused” and “unimproved”, then someone who wanted to “improve” it (i.e. cut down all the trees, kill all the wildlife, plant wheat) should be allowed to do so.  That was the argument, presented over and over, as to why the settlers should be allowed to move across the previously recognized borders.

        The land of course _was_ used, but not in the way recognized by the Europeans until relatively recent times with our “new” concepts of protected watersheds, wildlife reserves and game reserves.

        And so similarly, I think that most of these McMansions would be improved by razing, especially if the end result was the collapse of the remote subdivisions they are typically built in, increasing urban density and reducing commuter distances, and freeing up land to provide greater value for more people than a hollow status-symbol.

  5. Enoch_Root says:

    Whooooaaa there. It is a bit more complicated than that. 
    First your possession must be:
    -Open and notorious (you can’t just hide out everyone has to know)
    -Actual (you can’t just claim you own your neighbor’s barn, you actually have to use the barn)
    -Continuous (you have to possess the land in the same way that a normal owner would, you can’t just show up to an abandoned house once every 2 months and camp in it)
    -Exclusive (other people can’t be squatting there as well unless they could be considered your guests)
    -Adverse (you actually have to be occupying the property in opposition to the real owner, you can’t be a guest or have permission and usually implicit permission counts)

    But its more complicated than that…

    1) The times cited are a bit misleading. Texas is 3 years but the 3 year timeline requires that you possess the land under “color of title.” This is a legal term that basically means “I have some legitimate basis for thinking I am the owner of this particular land.” For example, if someone gave you land as a gift but didn’t make out a valid deed they technically still own the land, not you. But after 3 years since you have “color of title” (you have an invalid deed) the land officially becomes yours. New York has recently passed legislation significantly limiting adverse possession. Governor Patterson signed the law that requires a potential adverse possessor to have a reasonable basis for the belief that the property belongs to them.

    2) Many states that don’t have the requirement that you reasonably believe that you have a right to the land or states that have different time periods for people that believe they have a right and people that are just adversely possessing land that doesn’t belong to them usually have much longer time periods like 15 or 20 years.

    3) Its not as simple as “somebody else can come in and use it, without the owner’s permission.” There are many remedies that a property owner has before he/she loses her property to an adverse possessor. Most of them involve police or bringing the adverse possessor into court which costs money.

    4) Almost always you don’t just automatically get the land. Someone will eventually sue you and you will have to establish that you meet the criteria for adverse possession which is different in every state and increasingly limited by courts and legislatures. It will almost certainly not be cheap.

    That said IANAL but IAALS (i.e. “trust me I’m a 2L” ;)

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      It’s not that hard to adversely possess a one-foot strip of your neighbor’s yard, but taking over a house is close to impossible.

      • Enoch_Root says:

        Perhaps, but a lot of states have “minor encroachment” doctrines that presume that small encroachments (like a 1ft) strip are permissive not adverse. The upshot it you can’t even adversely possess small areas like that.

      • SKR says:

        This is especially true in Los Angeles where the fence that was once on the property line can move a couple of feet over the course of half a century.  The survey I recently did told me I am in possession of about 4 feet of my neighbors property.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          I had my property surveyed at my former house, and it appeared that all the lots on my block were on a diagonal, shifted by about seven feet at one end. Fortunately, nobody cared since we were all living on a lumpy scree slope covered with huge boulders.

          • Enoch_Root says:

            Yeah, I am amazed at the disputes that arise though. People will really get into it with their neighbors over 1ft sections on huge irregular property lines.

          • SKR says:

            It can become a problem if you want to build and have to oblige setback regulations.  However since neither I nor my neighbor have any plans of building anytime soon, I’m going to remain quiet about the whole thing.  And you can always just buy the sliver of land from your neighbor and have the lot lines redrawn if you don’t want to be a dick and claim adverse possession.  On the plus side, I’m not encroaching on the neighboring vacant lot where I plan on building a fence for a future dog like I thought I was. yay!!!

          • valdis says:

            Ooh.. a future dog.  Like Astro from the Jetsons, or something *really* cool? ;)

          • SKR says:

            Well, I was going to go for the flying canine but then I realized the futility of a fence in that circumstance and instead I am going to opt for frickin’ laser beams on its head.

  6. moniker42 says:

    My last computer was stolen at one of those squats while I was crashing there.

    As a former squatter it has been my experience that squatting in a building for ten years is a very difficult thing, most adverse possession laws in the united states have been changed to combat squatters.

    It’s difficult not impossible, it helps to get a lot of proof that you have been living there or if the property is derelict and you make a lot of repairs. Making repairs without a building permit is often illegal and in ten years many buildings go back on the market, most banks don’t like squatters. You’re essentially doing something illegal to take legal possession of the building.

    Adverse possession is a good reason to squat a building but more often squats are kept up and secret to avoid things like paying property taxes or paying to make repairs, adverse possession defeats the reasons most people squat for, or many people have a political pretext to squatting such as being against the idea of owning property in the first place. In the case of the lower east side squats those tenants were  extremely lucky and their cases very unique, most of the squats of the era were shut down in police raids and few of the original squatting tenants live in any of those co-ops now.

    Much more successful was the efforts of the organization Uhab which organized tenants of the same era to purchase foreclosed buildings outright from the banks which owned them, this same organization negotiated the deals which led to the LES squats being purchased from the city for a very small amount of money, something like ten dollars after hard fought legal battles. This is different from adverse possession.

    In Madison Wisconsin where I was raised there are dozens of Co-ops which hail from the 60′s era of squatting when adverse possession was still feasible. Those buildings were mostly old empty fraternities from after the bombing of sterling hall and no one wanted to send their kids to UW Madison anymore.

    The upshot is that once you’re living in a building it can be difficult for the police and the banks which often own the house, or previous occupants to get a squatter out of the building if they wish to combat legal charges and can prove they have been living there for a certain amount of time.

    • Stickarm says:

      “As a former squatter it has been my experience that squatting in a building for ten years is a very difficult thing”

      No kidding — in 1997 there was a fire in one of the apartments at a squat on 5th street between Avenues A & B in Manhattan (so, one of the “famous cases” in the quoted text above). The fire department was called. They put out the fire and then evacuated the building (in that order). The next thing that happened was the police department brought in a crane and demolished the building.

    • wrybread says:

      “My last computer was stolen at one of those squats while I was crashing there.”

      Ha, I had the same experience. I stayed in those squats in the East Village of NYC for a couple of months and man was theft a problem. It was always “someone broke in and took it” but then you’d learn that the person telling you this was the one who did the breaking in. Made everyone super paranoid. I’ve never seen such a dysfunctional living situation. Was a shame since it had so much potential. Of course I’m sure not every squat is like that.

      “As
      a former squatter it has been my experience that squatting in a
      building for ten years is a very difficult thing”

      Agreed. I used to say that they traded their occupations for pre-occupations. Seemed like every single time two of them spoke it was about squatting. Relentlessly.

      • moniker42 says:

        It can be a very immersive subculture till you break out of it and get back to the real world. I used to equate it to Stockholm syndrome. Some people just get really into shit. It can be very isolating, it’s a very insular community. Squatting in Europe is very different than in the states, I’m told. You would have to be in very ideal circumstances these days to take advantage of adverse possession.

  7. RobDobbs says:

    Didn’t Some Druids try to claim StoneHenge in the manner?

  8. Ryan_T_H says:

    Some of the current Adverse Possession cases have an interesting twist due to all the foreclosures and banking issues. At least a few of them are the result of banks or other mortgage holders foreclosing on a property and subsequently going bankrupt. Then a squatter moves in.

    So you have a property where the title is very unclear. Presumably the assets of the bankrupt mortgage holder get sold to someone else. However, with recent paperwork issues even solvent banks have been having trouble proving their titles to some property. And the purchaser in question may not even know they own the property, depending on how accurate the records were and how diligent they are about making inspections of the various assets.

    Depending on how the bankruptcy of the original mortgage holder goes down, the assets could potentially be tied up for years before they get officially sold. You could be looking at a situation where the length of time between active legal title holders actually exceeds the amount of time needed for an adverse possession claim.

  9. Againagain says:

    Another piece to drop into the “too good to be true” bucket is that in many states, payment of real property taxes on the aspirationally adversely possessed property is generally a critical piece of the “open and notorious” possession.  It’s frankly much easier to just become a large bank and steal properties the old fashioned way.

  10. Teller says:

    Off-topic, but “squatter” is quite perjorative.

  11. ciacontra says:

    Yeah, adverse possession isn’t nearly so easy as this makes it out to be.  And more often than not it’s actually quite a good thing.  It helps cover cases where someone deeds you land they don’t actually own (often innocently) and your family lives there for years before some Jonny-come-lately says he owns it.  Or say, a surveyor made a mistake and got the property lines off by a couple feet.  New guy moves in next door, resurveys, and lo and behold your shed is on his property.  “Now it’s my shed”, he says.  “Nope, it’s been there for 10+(etc.) years.  I honestly thought it was mine. Your predecessor in interest never did anything about it.  Those few feet of land are mine.”  You file a quitclaim and bam, problem solved.

    As for this “The White Man adversely possessed the Native Americans’ land” malarkey.  See Johnson v. M’Intosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823) and the “Discovery Doctrine” https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Discovery_doctrine

    The early supreme court basically said “It’s ours by historical right of conquest and our position as your civilized, christian superiors.”  Which is not quite the same as “It’s mine because you weren’t using it, you knew I was there, I treated it as mine, a bunch of time past, and you didn’t evict me.” 

    It’s much worse.

    And IAAL.

    • millie fink says:

      The early supreme court basically said “It’s ours by historical right of conquest and our position as your civilized, christian superiors.”  Which is not quite the same as “It’s mine because you weren’t using it, you knew I was there, I treated it as mine, a bunch of time past, and you didn’t evict me.”  

      It’s much worse.

      It was even more complicated (and worse) than that. The Christian belief in practice was the belief that since the “heathens” were (supposedly) not using the land, they were wasting it. It was therefore a Christian duty to take over the land, and then to “improve” it, by clearing it and growing crops or raising animals.

  12. moniker42 says:

    Pejorative is as pejorative does, among initiated it has not been my experience that squatter is a derogatory term. In the self referential it’s mostly a factual term, it’s just that incidentally most people hate squatters.

  13. MrJM says:

    State Time Limits on Adverse Possession from Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition:Alabama: In Alabama the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years.
    Arizona: In Arizona the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Arizona Code §12-521 through 528.
    Arkansas: In Arkansas the period of time for adverse possession must be at least seven (7) years. Arkansas Code §16-56-105; 18-11-102, 03; 18-60-212.
    California: In California the period of time for adverse possession must be at least five (5) years. The claimant of an easement by adverse possession must also pay the taxes due for the five (5) year period if it has been separately assessed. California CC §1007.
    Colorado: In Colorado the period of time for adverse possession must be at least eighteen (18) years. Colorado Code §38-41-101, 108, 109.
    Connecticut: In Connecticut the period of time for adverse possession must be at least fifteen (15) years. Connecticut Code §37-40; 47-25.
    Delaware: In Delaware the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Delaware Code §10-7901, 7902.
    Florida: In Florida the period of time for adverse possession must be at least seven (7) years. Florida Code §95.16-.18.
    Georgia: In Georgia the period of time for adverse possession must be at least seven (7) years for improved land and twenty (20) years for wild land. Georgia Code §44-5-175; 44-9-1.
    Hawaii: In Hawaii the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Hawaii Code §657-31, 31.5.
    Idaho: In Idaho the period of time for adverse possession must be at least five (15) years. Idaho Code §5-208 through 210.
    Illinois: In Illinois the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. This type of easement does not arise if the owner of the servient estate posts a conspicuous notice on the real estate stating that the use of it is permitted and subject to his/her control. Illinois Code §735-5/13-122.
    Indiana: In Indiana the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Indiana Code §32-5-1-1.
    Iowa: In Iowa the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. The owner of the servient estate may prevent the establishment of a prescriptive easement by serving written notice upon the easement claimant within the ten (10) year period that he/she disputes the claim. Iowa Code §564.1, 4-7.
    Kansas: In Kansas the period of time for adverse possession must be at least fifteen (15) years. Kansas Code §60-503.
    Kentucky: In Kentucky the period of time for adverse possession must be at least seven (7) years if held under patent and fifteen (15) years otherwise. Kentucky Code §413.050.
    Maine: In Maine the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. The owner of the servient estate may prevent a prescriptive easement by giving written public notice that he/she objects to the easement. Maine T.14, §812.
    Maryland: In Maryland the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Maryland Courts Art. §5-103.
    Massachusetts: In Massachusetts the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. The owner of the servient estate may prevent prescriptive easement by posting a conspicuous notice on the real estate claimed as an easement which states the owner’s intent to prevent an acquisition of an easement. Massachusetts C. 187, §2-3.
    Michigan: In Michigan the period of time for adverse possession must be at least fifteen (15) years. Michigan CLA §600.5801.
    Minnesota: In Minnesota the period of time for adverse possession must be at least fifteen (15) years. Minnesota Code §508.02; 541.01-.02.
    Mississippi: In Mississippi the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Mississippi Code §15-1-7, 13.
    Missouri: In Missouri the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Missouri Code §516.010-.030.
    Montana: In Montana the period of time for adverse possession must be at least five (5) years. Montana Code §70-19-405.
    Nebraska: In Nebraska the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Nebraska Code §25-202.
    Nevada: In Nevada the period of time for adverse possession must be at least five (5) years. Nevada Code §11.070-.080.
    New Hampshire: In New Hampshire the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. New Hampshire C. 508, §2.
    New Jersey: In New Jersey the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. New Jersey Common Law.
    New Mexico: In New Mexico the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. New Mexico Code §37-1-22.
    New York: In New York the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. New York Real Prop. A&P.L. §501-551.
    North Dakota: In North Dakota the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. North Dakota Code §47-05-12.
    Ohio: In Ohio the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty-one (21) years. Ohio Code §2305.04.
    Oklahoma: In Oklahoma the period of time for adverse possession must be at least fifteen (15) years. Oklahoma Code §12-93; 60-333.
    Oregon: In Oregon the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Oregon Code §12.050
    Pennsylvania: In Pennsylvania the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty-one (21) years. Pennsylvania Code §42-5530.
    Rhode Island: In Rhode Island the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Rhode Island Code 34-7-1.
    South Carolina: In South Carolina the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. South Carolina Code §15-67-210 through 260.
    Tennessee: In Tennessee the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Tennessee Common Law.
    Utah: In Utah the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Utah Common Law; Title 78, Chapter 12.
    Virginia: In Virginia the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Virginia Common Law.
    Washington: In Washington the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Washington Code §7.28.050-.090.
    West Virginia: In West Virginia the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. West Virginia Common Law Code §55-2-1.
    Wisconsin: In Wisconsin the period of time for adverse possession must be at least twenty (20) years. Wisconsin Code §893.28.
    Wyoming: In Wyoming the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Wyoming Code §24-1-101.

  14. Andrew More says:

    Looks like it’s 21 years in Ohio….. oh well, there goes my get rich quick scheme!

    BTW, does anybody else think that the neighbors are going to make dude’s life a living hell, forcing him to earn the property in other ways?

  15. Bill says:

    In Texas it is 3 to 25 years, depending on circumstance. In Arizona it is just 2 years.

  16. King Coopa says:

    My family has land on the Oklahoma side of the Red River on the boarder with Texas.  The land on the other side has been nothing but dense forest for as long as I can remember…  I wonder if you have to reside in that state to make those claims?

  17. Phyrkrakr says:

    Looks like most of the law has been covered, but I’ll add in a wrinkle in Missouri:  You can’t adverse possess against a government or a church, because the whole reason for adverse possession is to put the property in the hands of someone who has a purpose for it.  The state or a church are already using it for the common good, so there can be no higher purpose to which it can be put. 

    The case that supports this is really old, so for “church” you can substitute “charitable organization” if you’d like.

    @King Coopa: You’d have to be in open and notorious possession, for a continuous period (whatever the statutory period is) without any sort of permission, either implied or otherwise, from the owner.  “Possession” usually means you’re putting the ground to use in some way.  You can’t just fence it and then walk through it once a month.  You have to actively farm it, log it, live on it, or something.  And do it continuously for the entire period of time.

  18. kmoser says:

    If the owner isn’t using the property, somebody else can come in and use it, without the owner’s permission.

    Ah, there’s the rub. One person’s “using” is another person’s “abandoned.” When I own property, I may choose to “use” it by never visiting it at all. I don’t see how that give strangers the right to a) trespass, or b) claim ownership. What’s mine is mine, end of story, or at least it should be. If I choose to go away on vacation for five years, why should somebody else have the right to claim my property?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Why should you have the right to dominate a resource that you don’t use? The idea that personal ownership trumps every other consideration is quaintly archaic.

      • hungryjoe says:

        Instead of using the courts to seize someone else’s property, one could simply ask permission to use it, or even offer to buy it.

        Adverse possession is a hostile takeover.  That hostility is quaintly archaic.

  19. AA says:

    Hello everyone

    @Antinous_Moderator:disqus I don’t think that this is about a resource that you don’t
    use…Consider the case of an older person who used to have a particular
    use for a property, but due to old age can’t continue to do so anymore
    but wishes to pass the property to their children…For valid
    sentimental reasons, no one is going to force the older person to pass
    the titles of ownership before their will becomes active. In the
    meantime and as no one is using the land as it was previously done, it
    does not mean that squatters should be free to take over…

    I think that this piece of law is there to force people to either use it or sell it (lose it…in a way)…In any case, it would contribute to the economy.

    Perhaps there are also valid cases where squatting (and the associated law) would be completely justified…

    How about something like a “Commons” licensing though? “You are free to use and modify this property acknowledging its original owner….Terms and conditions apply (read back of the sign)…” :-D

    (IANAL)

  20. In the Netherlands the property had to be unused/abandoned for 1 year.  (Recently they outlawed squatting completely, but some people still do it.)  I’ve noticed there are a lot of empty buildings around Amsterdam, which is weird considering how expensive housing is here.  But that does give squatters lots of places to pick from. 

  21. Tonweight says:

    I was going to write something about how crummy is the whole concept of “titled property,” but then I remembered that it’s just the entirety of U.S. law that’s fundamentally broken.

    Those who are proper custodians of their land are the most deserving; those with little interest other than “ownership” should pound sand.  The idea that a corporate entity – noting that people are proper corporate entities with that capitalized name on the certificate – could shoo away folk productively farming a plot of perfect plains (with which said entity has zero productive involvement) is just plain wrong.  Certainly, proper accord within according legal framework is preferable to anarchy, but “ownership” should always imply “proper use,” in my opinion.

    “This land is my land.  This land ain’t your land.  I got a shotgun; and you ain’t got one.  This land is mine, it isn’t yours.” ((heavy sigh))

    Silly monkeys.

  22. Quinn Harlech says:

    What about nature preserves? If I (or the Nature Conservancy) want to set aside 10,000 acres for wildlife, do you have the right to come on in and make “productive” use of it?

    I’m doing nothing with the land (“dominating” a resource I’m not using, to use Antinous’s term), not even letting hikers come on in (they’d disturb the wildlife). Should you be able to move on in, log all of the trees, and turn it into farm land? That sure seems to be the argument of a number of the “anti-ownership” people here. Quite odd.

    Remember, private property lets people do whatever they want with the land. If I think it’s best to preserve it, that’s my right. If I work with 10,000 other people to pool resources and buy land from a big logging firm to make a nature preserve (as the Nature Conservancy does), how does this change things just because a mean, nasty corporation (The Nature Conservancy) now owns the land?

    • SKR says:

      You are missing all the rest of the adverse possession such as the amount of time they need to be in open possession of it without any contestation by the legit property owner.  They can’t just walk onto your land and start logging.  They would have to fence it in for a certain number of years during which time you or the trust would probably stop by and exclaim WTF.

    • semiotix says:

      What about nature preserves? If I (or the Nature Conservancy) want to set aside 10,000 acres for wildlife, do you have the right to come on in and make “productive” use of it?

      On the very slim chance you happen back to read this, lo these many days later–

      Not a chance (can I adversely possess your nature preserve), regardless of whether it’s you or TNC owning it. All you have to do is move your lips just enough to whisper “no” at me, and my adverse possession claim is utterly annihilated. Or, if you sign it over to TNC, their staff will do it. 

      In order for an adverse possession claim to succeed, you practically have to grab the titleholder by the lapels and scream, “do you give the tiniest little fraction of a shit that I’m taking your land?” And if the answer is anything remotely like “yes,” game over and the sheriffs move in. 

      Now, if your “nature preserve” in the middle of a city becomes a trash heap/drug den/uncleared fire hazard/rabid rodent habitat, then civil authorities might step in to condemn it, or claim it by eminent domain, or fine you for neglect until you sell it. In other words, you don’t have the untrammeled right to a “nature preserve” that you’re not willing to keep an eye on and potentially spend money on to keep it safe or up-to-code. (On the other end of the spectrum, you can’t build a teetering wooden skyscraper that the first stiff wind will blow onto your neighbors, either.) This is what makes TNC a nice thing, by the way–they only take property that might serve some actual ecological purpose, and they spend money and effort managing those lands by (for example) clearing away flammable brush, looking out for illegal dumping, fighting invasive species, putting up fences and signs, etc.

      It’s possible for authorities to put the kibosh on a sufficiently malignant property. But you’ll never lose property to adverse possession that you care enough about to say, “hey, it’s mine.”

  23. moniker42 says:

    Also that in the case of the LES squats, they were owned by the City of New York, not banks at the time which added a very interesting slant to the whole thing. Using that example may be encouraging but it certainly is not the common situation with abandoned buildings.

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