Legal Hypothetical: Claim to enforce squatter’s rights

 

Claim to enforce squatter’s rights

TIM is part of a wealthy family and has inherited a number of properties from various family members over the years.

Tim had regularly moved up and down the coast as a younger man and later in life, settled in a small seaside township.

Tim had forgotten about a large parcel of vacant land that he inherited 25 years ago.

Next to Tim’s vacant land, a conscientious and thrifty developer, ABC Villages Pty Ltd, began to establish a golf course and residential complex.

Shortly after construction began, ABC Villages used Tim’s neighboring land as an access route and a place to store plant and equipment.

15 years pass since the establishment of the golf course and residential complex and sadly, Tim has been diagnosed with cancer.

Tim decides to organise his estate planning and as part of the process, becomes aware of the vacant land and begins to make enquiries regarding its value.

His search leads him to ABC Villages.

Tim asks ABC Villages to vacate the property.

ABC Villages commence legal action against Tim, claiming ownership under “adverse possession”, also known as squatter’s rights, on the basis that they had occupied the land for more than the statutory time limit of 12 continuous years, and could demonstrate its use and possession of the land.

However, during proceedings many locals come out to support Tim.

They give evidence that they also regularly access and use the land for dog walking, motorbike riding, bonfires and general recreation activities.

The Court finds that Tim’s land was in fact accessed and used by numerous people for a variety of activities and as the property was not fenced or gated, that ABC Villages did not have “exclusive possession”.

The Court rules ABC Villages was not able to establish the essential requirements of adverse possession and dismisses ABC Village’s application.

Thank you to Anthony Fogarty for his assistance with this column.

If YOU would like a particular issue addressed, please email me at [email protected] or call me on (02) 66 487 487.

 

By Manny WOOD, Solicitor

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