Adverse Possession Under Texas Law

Adverse possession is every property owner’s worst nightmare. Under this legal theory, a complete stranger could occupy your land for a period of time and claim legal title to your land. The redeeming light is that an adverse possessor must meet very specific legal requirements before staking a claim to property. Here, we’ll review how adverse possession works in the Lone Star State.

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The Elements of Adverse Possession

The statute dealing with adverse possession is Civ. Prac. & Rem. §16.024, et seq. Under this statute, there are four elements that must be met to establish a claim to title. First, the trespasser must enter or use the property without the authorization of the legal owner. Second, the trespasser must use the land as if he or she were the real owner. Third, the use of the land must be open and apparent to others. Finally, the land must be continuously occupied for the statutory period.

Statutory Periods of Possession

In relation to the fourth element discussed above, a trespasser can satisfy the statutory period in a few different ways. If the trespasser has some sort of erroneous deed the claim can be made after three years of possession. A five-year period will apply where the land is cultivated and taxes are paid in addition to having “color of title.” A ten-year period will apply if the trespasser is only able to meet the basic elements of an adverse possession claim. A claim under a ten-year statutory period is also restricted to 160 acres of land.

The Government Land Exception

The state of Texas exempts any government owned land from adverse possession. Any sort of public land is automatically safe from an attempt at adverse possession.

How to Stop Adverse Possession

In reality, it takes two parties to make an adverse possession claim successful. First, the trespasser must meet all the relevant legal requirements. Then, the landowner must fail to stop the claim from proceeding any further. Therefore, the average property owner actually has a lot of power to stop an attempt at adverse possession.

The main thing property owners can do is to aggressively enforce their rights whenever it is necessary. This is as simple as ejecting trespassers from your property as soon as you notice their presence. Land owners that pay attention to their properties rarely encounter problems with adverse possession. Those who need help dealing with a trespasser should contact a Dallas real estate attorney.

How Did This Law Come About?

Many states have adverse possession laws on the books. It is an arcane doctrine that has continued into modern times. Its purpose is to promote the beneficial use of land at all times. It also seeks to avoid property abandonment.

Summarizing Adverse Possession in Texas

Most property owners will not have to deal with an adverse possession issue. However, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the concept in case it affects you at some point in the future. Remember, a person does not have to trespass on your entire property to have an adverse possession claim. They can simply encroach on a small part of your parcel and later claim title. Therefore, keep an eye on neighboring fence lines and newly erected structures to make sure they are not crossing over the property line. In the end, remaining vigilant as a property owner is the best defense to adverse possession.


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