Adverse Possession Lawyers
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Michigan Adverse Possession Lawyers
There is a specific doctrine in Michigan real estate law called adverse possession. This doctrine allows a person to become the owner of land that he or she has occupied for a certain period, even if not the titled owner. If you believe you have acquired title to a property or are concerned about losing it, contacting an attorney may help clear things up and empower you to make wise decisions going forward.
The adverse possession attorneys at Hirzel Law have experience handling various real estate law issues, including adverse possession matters. They can review your case and determine how to best address the issues you are facing.
How to Establish Adverse Possession in Michigan?
In Michigan, an individual may gain ownership of real property even if that person does not have a deed or hold legal title to the property. The concept is called adverse possession and most often, but not always, occurs due to a boundary dispute between two neighbors. Adverse possession can also occur by a trespasser to land that occupies the land for fifteen (15) years. To establish adverse possession, an individual must demonstrate possession of the real property for a period of fifteen (15) years and that the possession has been actual, visible, open, notorious, exclusive, continuous, hostile, and under a cover or claim of right.
To establish adverse possession in Michigan, the person seeking adverse possession must demonstrate the following elements:
- Actual Possession. Generally, the occasional or periodic entry upon land does not constitute actual possession. However, it has been acknowledged that the “[d]determination of what acts or uses are sufficient to constitute adverse possession depends upon the facts in each case and to a large extent upon the character of the premises.” The first element is to determine whether there has been actual entry to land.
- Visible. The person adversely possessing the land must be visible and not ‘sneaky’ such as an individual from sneaking onto another’s property each night for fifteen (15) years and then claiming that the property is now theirs. This requirement is to ensure that the owner of the land would be able to see if another individual is adversely possessing their land.
- Open. Similar to the visible element, the adverse possession must be out in the open by the person adversely possessing the land. This element focuses on whether there are open acts of the ownership exercised over the property. Like the “visible” element, the requirement that the actions or dominion of the land be out in the open is a check to ensure that the adverse possessor is not acting surreptitiously or in a ‘sneaky’ manner. Often, but not always, vacant parcels of land with no development for fifteen (15) years or more are left fallow and rarely maintained or used by the original owner. An adverse possessor may take actions out in the open to demonstrate this element of adverse possession.
- Notorious. Notorious does not mean being well-known or famous for doing some bad deed. Rather, in the legal sense, notorious means the occupation of real property in a manner that anyone can observe as if the person using the land is the true owner of the property. Notorious is often tied to the concepts of visible and open outlined above. The rationale behind the ‘notorious’ element is that the original property owner should be given every opportunity to notice the behavior of the adverse possessor and stop them prior to the fifteen years elapsing. Instead, often we see a landowner not care about someone performing actions on the landowner’s land or, instead, be so absent from the property that the original owner does not even realize that the adverse possession is taking place. Simply, notorious looks at the actions of the parties and who is acting like the true owner of the property at issue.
- Exclusive. Exclusivity is the intention of holding the disputed property as your own to the exclusion of all others. Examples of exclusive use may include cutting the grass, trimming trees, planting flowers, installing sprinklers, and other acts of dominion demonstrating that the property is exclusively your property.
- Continuous. Continuous refers to the fifteen (15) year time frame required for adverse possession under MCL 600.5801. Most often, a person challenging adverse possession will claim that they interrupted the fifteen (15) year timeframe thereby seeking to avoid an adverse possession claim. Whether that is true is often fact-specific and depends on when the person first claims they ‘interrupted’ the adverse possession. If the interruption is after the fifteen (15) year statutory timeframe has already expired, then that is insufficient. The goal of the continuous requirement is to ensure compliance with MCL 600.5801. Also, often the person seeking adverse possession will need to ‘tack’ on a prior owner’s timeframe to reach the requisite fifteen (15) year statutory time frame. For example, a person seeking adverse possession is permitted to add his predecessor’s period of possession if they can establish privity of the estate in an instrument of conveyance such as a deed or parole references at the time of the conveyance.
- Hostile. Hostile refers to the usage of land that is inconsistent with the rights of the original property owner and without the owner’s permission.
- Under a Cover or Claim of Right. The Court in Connelly v. Buckingham, 136 Mich App 462; 357 NW2d 70 (1984) stated, ‘“Claim of title’ is where one enters and occupies land, with the intent to hold it as his own, against the world, irrespective of any shadow or color or right or title.” The Court of Appeals held that it was not necessary that the party in possession “should have expressly declared his intention to hold the property as his own, nor need his claim thereto be a rightful one.” The mere fact of actions and conduct that demonstrates a claim of ownership is enough to meet this element.
How to Stop Adverse Possession in Michigan
If you are a landowner, keep an eye on your property. If you suspect that someone has a possible adverse possession claim, check property tax records to see if this person (or anyone else) has made tax payments on the property. To prevent a trespasser from gaining property ownership, you can take the following steps:
- Post “no trespassing” signs and block entrances with gates. Keep in mind that this is a good way to deter trespassers, but in many states, the fact that you have signs or gates will not protect against a claim by a trespasser who takes possession of the land anyway.
- Give written permission to someone to use your land and get their written acknowledgment.
- Offer to rent the property to the trespasser, thus making the relationship official, as described in Sample Rental Agreement for Neighbor’s Use of Portion of Your Land.
- Call the police. However, in many cases, the police may indicate that this is a civil matter as opposed to a criminal matter if there is no damage caused by the occupancy of the land.
- Hire a lawyer. You might need to file a lawsuit to eject the trespasser from the landlord. Or you might want a court to order a structure removed from your property. You must act before the trespasser has been on your land long enough, under your state’s law, to make a successful adverse possession claim.
Contact Our Adverse Possession Lawyers Today
Adverse possession can be difficult to understand but having an experienced lawyer can help. At Hirzel Law, PLC, our Michigan adverse possession lawyers can help you with any disputes that may arise. We stand by our clients, offering the highest quality legal representation and promptly responding to our clients’ needs.
Contact Hirzel Law online or call 248-986-2921 (Farmington) or 231-486-5600 (Traverse City) or 616-319-9964 (Grand Rapids office) to see how our Michigan adverse possessions attorneys can help with issues that arise on your Michigan property.