Legal Articles

Your Property and Adverse Possession

By Tori Reese

As properties get sold and land transfers hands, it can become difficult to ascertain where boundaries are without official surveys. This can lead to people believing property is theirs when in fact it is not. In Iowa, there is a doctrine known as “adverse possession” which occurs when a person occupies land to which another person has title with the intention of possessing it as one’s own. If a person openly inhabits and improves property, or even a small portion of said property, for a determined amount of time, he or she may gain legal title to the property. In Iowa the individual must occupy the land for at least five years before the possibility of ownership.

However, and fortunately for landowners, this minimum time of occupation is not the only requirement under Iowa law for adverse possession. Additionally, in order to have a legitimate claim to the land, one must show that their claim is “hostile”, they must be in actual possession that is open and notorious, and there must be exclusive and continuous possession. Hostile possession can occur when someone is with OR without knowledge that they are occupying private property and are aware of their trespassing. Moreover, the person must be physically present on the land, in essence treating it as their own. This cannot be done in secret, and they cannot share the possession of the land with others for an uninterrupted period of time. If you believe, or have reason to believe, someone might be using your land as their own, it is imperative you speak with a properly educated attorney on the matter. Time is of the essence with these matters, and knowing your rights can help avoid costly litigation and the possibility of losing title to some or all of your property.