Adverse Possession

PALUMBO LAW and its experienced adverse possession attorneys understand boundary line disputes, adverse possession and boundary by acquiescence. In fact, our boundary line lawyer, Nicole Labonte is one of the few boundary line attorneys in the history of Rhode Island adverse possession cases to ever win an adverse possession case in RI Superior Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment. Adverse possession is a legal method of acquiring title to real estate by possession for a statutory period under certain conditions, especially a non-permissive use of the land with a claim of right when that use is continuous, exclusive, hostile, open and notorious.

Our Rhode Island adverse possession attorneys have years of experience litigating matters concerning boundary line disputes, adverse possession, prescriptive easements, boundary by acquiescence and quiet title actions. We are your Rhode Island adverse possession attorneys, your boundary line dispute lawyers and are ready to assist you with this type of real estate dispute.

The below example is a good illustration of a typical adverse possession litigation matter in Rhode Island.

If the recorded boundary line of Mr. Doe’s Narragansett, Rhode Island real estate is several feet beyond a fence dividing his and his neighbors properties, and Mr. C has a barn located on his recorded property, then Mr. Doe has adversely possessed the disputed land area (the tract of land several feet beyond the fence, up to and including the barn).

The first step in the process would be for an experienced boundary line dispute attorney from PALUMBO LAW to file a complaint in Washington County Superior Court because, in our example, the property is located in Washington County. In our case, all of the necessary elements of adverse possession have clearly been established. The Doe’s purchased their property in 1990. It was their belief at the time, and continues to be their belief, that the tract of land in question belonged to them. They began maintaining the land and kept two horses in the barn right away, consistent with this belief. The fence was in place and the barn had long existed prior to their purchase of the property. The Doe’s affected numerous repairs to the barn including new shingles, windows, and a new roof. The Doe’s have, therefore, made effective use of the property in question for the last thirteen (13) years. The Rhode Island General Laws state that where any person was in the uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful and actual seisin and possession of any lands claiming the land as his for the space of (10) ten years may establish conclusive title. (See R.I.G.L. 34-7-1). The Supreme Court has long held that the elements to establish adverse possession are that it must be actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive for at least ten (10) years. Sherman v. Goloskie, 188 A.2d 79, 83 (R.I. 1963).

To meet the open and notorious requirement, our real estate dispute attorney must show that our clients’ use of the land would “put a reasonable property owner on notice of their hostile claim.” Gammons v. Caswell, 447 A.2d 361, 367 (R.I. 1982). The court found that it is sufficient for the claimant to go upon the disputed land and use it adversely to the true owner and the owner then becomes chargeable with knowledge of whatever occurs on the land is in an open manner. Lee v. Raymond, 456 A.2d 1179, 1183 (R.I. 1983). The court held that the owner was still chargeable with knowing that whatever was done openly on the land he owned, even though it could not be observed from the road or from the boundary of the property, was done in an open manner. Tavares v. Beck, 814 A.2d 346, 352 (R.I. 2003). The Doe’s kept horses they purchased in 1990 in the barn and maintained the property in dispute. As set forth in Gammons, as a reasonable property owner, Mr. C was put on notice by the placement of the fence and the Doe’s open and notorious use of the land. In addition, many neighbors believed that the Doe’s owned the property as well.

The Does’ use of the land was hostile and under a claim of right because permission was not given and the Doe’s treated it as their property. To establish hostile use, the claimant must only establish a use “inconsistent with the right of the owner, without permission asked or given” such as would entitle the owner to a cause of action against the intruder for trespass. Tavares, 814 A.2d at 351 (citing 16 Powell on Real Property, § 91.05[1] at 91-23 (2000). The court held that where the claimant mistook his boundary, but continuously asserted dominion over the property for the statutory period, he was a hostile occupant of the land. Taffinder v. Thomas, 381 A.2d 519, 523 (R.I. 1977). A claim of right is established “through evidence of open, visible acts or declarations, accompanied by use of the property in an objectively observable manner that is inconsistent with the rights of the record owner.” Tavares, 814 A.2d at 351. The Does’ use was continuous and exclusive, as well, since they maintained the property and kept their horses in the barn from the time they purchased the property through the present. They have owned the property for thirteen (13) years and, thus, meet the statutory period of ten (10) years, far exceeding the limit because the fence and barn had been in place at least ten (10) years prior to the Does’ purchase.

As argued by an experienced boundary line dispute lawyer from PALUMBO LAW, the facts of this matter fully support all of the elements of adverse possession. The Does’ use was actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive for over ten (10) years. If this were an actual adverse possession case, then the Does should win and take the disputed property by adverse possession.

The experience adverse possession attorneys at PALUMBO LAW are here to assist you with your adverse possession matter, boundary line dispute, real property litigation or real estate dispute. Call the Rhode Island Real Estate Dispute attorneys at PALUMBO LAW for your free consultation today.