Recent Highlights in the Neighbor Wars-Adverse Possession

This blog has identified recent legislation in the State of New York discussing adverse possession. Adverse possession is a method of gaining title to property based upon use of the property (not written). Although not a favored means to procure land, depending upon the facts a person may acquire title to land by adverse possession if she holds the property in a manner that conflicts with the rights of the true owner for a period of time.

There are five elements that establish a claim of adverse possession in New York. Possession must be 1) hostile and under claim of right, 2) actual, 3) open and notorious, 4) exclusive, and 5) continue for the specified period as determined by jurisdiction. Adverse possession is generally a question of fact to be decided by a court. Since the enactment of the statute and recent decisions by the Court of Appeals in New York, it is important to consider what judicial department you might be located.

For example, in the First Department, in the case entitled Eller Media Co. v. Bruckner Outdoor Signs, the plaintiffs constructed a billboard on a disputed parcel and surrounded that billboard with a chain-link fence. The defendants appealed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs arguing that the disputed parcel was held by a city for a public purpose. The court disagreed and determined that the plaintiffs or claimants had not only satisfied the elements of adverse possession because its use was hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous for more than the ten year statutory period, but that the parcel was not held for a public purpose and therefore not immune to the plaintiff’s adverse possession claim.

At Klose & Associates, we handle real estate litigation including adverse possession claims in the first department. You should always contact a specialized New York real estate litigation attorney if you have concerns about adverse possession.

Created by the New York State Constitution of 1894, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, is one of four intermediate appellate courts in the State, and holds jurisdiction over the Counties of New York and the Bronx. Appeals are taken to the Appellate Division, as a matter of right, in civil and criminal cases, from the Supreme Court, Surrogate’s Court, Family Court, and Court of Claims.