Adverse possession is normally talked about in terms of finding and claiming land for which there is no registered ownership.

Around us, a lot of land is listed as registered by the local council including unused/derelict plots. Can adverse possession or something else apply for land which is registered but apparently forgotten? In other words, by the same process of using and tending to the land can an ownership claim become valid?

Or, once land is registered is it then non-claimable in perpetuity?

  • Historically, adverse possession did not run against the government, but did apply to everyone else. Lots of ways it can come up.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 18:32

1 Answer 1



  1. After 10 years the squatter may apply to become the registered owner
  2. The current registered owner may oppose the transfer. If they do, they succeed except (complicated reasons). If they don’t oppose or (complicated reasons) the title is transferred.
  3. If the title is not transferred and the squatter remains in occupation, they can reapply in 2 years and will be successful.

(complicated reasons) are spelled out in the linked article and are quite ... complicated.

  • "it would be unconscionable because of an equity by estoppel for the registered proprietor to seek to dispossess the squatter and the squatter ought in the circumstances to be registered as proprietor" - indeed!
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 15:07
  • Lots of adverse possession cases involve built structures that due to poor surveying don't end up precisely where the legal description states that they are located, e.g. with a string of houses with fences 2 meters east of where they are supposed to be in a platted subdivision, or a townhouse built 300 cm across the line described in the legal description. How are those cases handled? (Maybe it happens more in the U.S. since surveyors were scarce early on and mountains, etc. in the U.S. are hard to survey.)
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 18:29
  • @ohwilleke this is registered land - registration requires a survey. Of course, surveyors do make mistakes sometimes.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 21:41
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    @ohwilleke that would be handled under the third condition in paragraph 5 of Schedule 6 of the Land Registration Act 2002, which provides for more favorable treatment to the squatter for land adjacent to land they own.
    – Ryan M
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 1:44
  • @DaleM Almost all legal descriptions resulting in adverse possession issues in the U.S. were written by surveyors. Usually the issue is that the fence builders or the people who were pouring the foundations of buildings didn't use adequate care to match the physical construction to the surveyed boundary lines, or that a clerical error in entering the legal description in a legal document (or in copying it for a builder to use) led someone astray.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 19:37

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