Squatters rights: a guide to adverse possession claims

03 March 2024

People may be familiar with the concept that if you have used land exclusively for a period of time, then you can apply to HM Land Registry to become the owner of that land.  

This is commonly known as squatters' rights. Prior to the introduction of the Land Registration Act 2002 ("LRA"), a party could apply for ownership if they had been in exclusive occupation and possession for a period of 12 years.

Now we have the Land Registration Act, and if the period of exclusive use and occupation is since 2002, after 10 years of adverse possession, a squatter can apply to become the owner of the land.

How would I become the owner of land based on adverse possession? 

The first thing to do would be to write to the landowner, if there is one, and explain that you have exclusively used and occupied the land for more than 10 or 12 years and invite them to consent to your Land Registry application to become the new owner.  

Assuming that is ignored or your claim is rejected, you would need to apply to HM Land Registry. HM Land Registry would then send a copy of the application to the registered owner of the land, and they would have the chance to object.  

If the objection is maintained and the parties cannot agree on a settlement, then ultimately, the Property First Tier Tribunal may have to decide whether the application can succeed or whether it has to be rejected.

What would I have to prove to succeed?

Adverse possession has two essential elements. The first is a demonstration of a factual possession of the land, and the second is the necessary intention to possess the land without the true owner's consent.

Factual possession means that you must be able to demonstrate an appropriate degree of physical control of the land. What constitutes a sufficient degree of exclusive physical control will depend on the circumstances. Still, broadly, you have to show that you have been dealing with the land as an occupying owner would have done so and that no one else has.

In terms of the intention to possess, you do not have to demonstrate an intention to own or have intended to acquire ownership of the land. What is important is that you can show that the possession has been adverse, i.e. the owner of the land has never given any permission for your use or occupation.

How do I apply?  

An application must be made to the HM Land Registry on form ADV1 accompanied by a statement or truth or declaration that meets the HM Land Registry's requirements. If you think that you have adversely possessed land, you should promptly make your application to the HM Land Registry to avoid any argument that you have not acted quickly enough.

Supporting evidence will also need to be provided with the application to demonstrate your adverse possession of the land for at least 10 years.

Read more about our experience with

Speak to an expert

Forging and maintaining strong long-term relationships with our clients is of utmost importance to us.