Adverse Possession in Los Angeles

Attention Los Angeles landowners. Beware that a landowner’s real estate can be taken by adverse possession from a neighbor, a stranger, a trespasser, or a tenant. A legal form of gaining property title that does not belong to you is called adverse possession. Do you own property in the largest city in the country? Landowner’s real estate can be taken by adverse possession from a neighbor, a stranger, a trespasser, or a tenant. Understanding your rights when someone creeps along your property line can be crucial. 

Stone & Sallus can help prevent an interested party from trying to obtain title to your property. It is not uncommon when owners lack clear understanding of property rights. Who would think that someone would try to steal land legally? Adverse Possession happens when a title is acquired by a person who has taken possession of the land and has remained in possession for a specified number of years and establishes a claim for legal title in court.

Under California legislation a few things must occur before a quiet title claim can be entered:

1.       Hostile Claim or adverse meaning the original owner’s title is being denied when possession is taking place without his/her permission.

2.       Actual Possession concept is that the owner is aware of the stranger’s occupancy.  The act of trespassing cannot be secret.

3.       Exclusive & Continuous Possession the trespasser cannot share possession with others and must be in possession of the land for an unbroken period of time.

How to Identify Property Boundaries

If you’re not sure, remember that every parcel of land which becomes the object of a sale, a lease, or the security of an obligation must be properly identified or described and are based originally on the field notes of a surveyor or civil engineer. Here are places that identify and describe property boundaries/lines:

  •        Deed an instrument in writing duly executed and delivered by the grantor that to the grantee some right, title or to real estate. 
  •        Survey the process by which a parcel of land is measured, and its area ascertained.
  •       County recorder should have a record of records for the property, which is a public record.

Three California Adverse Possession Cases

In California, adverse possession occurs when a person who wants to claim someone else’s land must not only use it for at least five years, but they must also pay property taxes on it.

Dimmick v Dimmick 58 Cal. @d 417,421, 424  Cal.Rptr. 856 374 p. 2d. 824 (1962) Property was deeded to three sons but only one son farmed the land. That son sued for quiet title. The trial court ruled they had joined tenancy and the court of appeals didn’t change the ruling of the trial court.

James v. LeDelt 228 Cal. App 2d 474, 489 (1964)This case was a dispute over a 400 feet wide area plaintiff seeking removal of a cabin on the area in question. The trial court ruled for the defendant based on agreed boundary, adverse possession, estoppel, and laches. Judge concluded the plaintiff had no right, interest, or title in the disputed tract. 

Madden V.  Alpha Hardware & Supply Co. 128 Cal. App 2d 72, 75, (1954)  A case about property, adverse possession,  where plaintiff states they had possession for twenty years and paid taxes for ten years. The defendants appealed and the appeal Judge affirmed the order.

Protect Yourself from Los Angeles Squatters

A squatter is a person who occupies a property that does not own, rent, or has permission from the owner to legally occupy it.  Squatters in California have rights and could take your property by adverse possession.  It does happen, so know your rights and protect your property. Here are some suggestions:

1)      Pay your taxes on time.

2)      Make sure you keep your rental property filled with tenants.

3)       Do not allow subletting, make sure it is clearly stated in the lease.

4)      Hire a property manager to watch your properties when you cannot.

5)      Make sure your property has a good security system.

Stone & Sallus are adverse possession disputes attorneys in Los Angeles.  We are here to answer any question you might have.