In England and Wales, an occupier of land can potentially obtain a legal freehold title through the process of adverse possession. Adverse possession allows a person who has occupied and treated the land as his own for a certain period of time to claim ownership of the land, even if he does not have the original legal title. However, the process for adverse possession in England and Wales has been significantly modified by the Land Registration Act 2002. Here are the general steps involved:
Occupation: The occupier must have occupied the land continuously for at least 10 years (previously 12 years before the Land Registration Act 2002). The occupation should be exclusive, meaning they have exclusive control over the land and are not sharing possession with others, including the true owner.
Adversity: The occupier's possession must be adverse or hostile to the rights of the true owner. This means that they are occupying the land without the true owner's permission or consent. The occupation should be without any legal right or agreement with the owner.
Notifiable Adverse Possession: If the land is registered with the Land Registry, the occupier must make an application for adverse possession and provide notice to the registered owner. The registered owner then has an opportunity to dispute the claim within a specified period.
Statutory Declarations: The occupier must provide evidence of their occupation and claim of adverse possession through statutory declarations, supported by any relevant documentation or witnesses. These declarations should outline the details of the occupation and the reasons for claiming adverse possession.
Land Registry Application: If the adverse possession claim is successful or unopposed by the registered owner, the occupier can apply to the Land Registry for registration of their title to the land. This involves submitting the necessary forms, supporting evidence, and paying the applicable fees.
Land Registry Decision: The Land Registry will review the application and supporting evidence. If they are satisfied that the requirements for adverse possession have been met, they may register the occupier as the new legal owner of the land. The registered title will reflect the change in ownership.
It is important to note that the process for adverse possession can be complex, and the specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on the circumstances and nature of the land, so it is advisable to consult the Land Registry's guidelines and procedures to understand the specific requirements and process for adverse possession in England and Wales.
You can learn more about this topic and relevant case law with our Property Law notes.