In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by senior solicitor Rod Waters...

Can you claim Adverse Possession of unregistered land?

Q: Behind the rear gardens in my street is a 5m strip of 'no-man's' land. Last week a neighbour took down his fence and chopped down trees and hedges growing on the land, effectively extending his garden by 5m. I checked with Land Registry and the land is not registered to anyone, although I always believed it was owned by the developers who built the houses and who have long since disappeared. Is the neighbour within his rights to claim the land? Could I do the same?

A: Just because the land is not registered does not mean it does not belong to anyone. It appears your rear neighbour may be trying to claim Adverse Possession of the land by incorporating it into his garden as it has been left and not maintained by the true owner for many years.

As the land is unregistered a particular set of rules apply. In a claim for adverse possession of unregistered land the applicant must prove they have factual possession of the land, the necessary intention to possess the land to the exclusion of all others and without the consent of the legal owner and have done so for at least 12 years unchallenged.

Fencing can be evidence of factual possession but is not necessarily conclusive. This appears to have only just started and as such must continue for at least 12 years prior to any application claiming adverse possession. During this period the true owner can seek to recover possession but if it was a company now dissolved, the land would have reverted to the Crown in which case the limitation period is extended to 30 years from the start of the adverse possession.

You may wish to take steps to lay your own claim to the land or part of it, but the law in this area is complicated and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

This question has been answered by Rod Waters, a senior solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. In accordance with government guidelines, most of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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