You’ve bought a new house outside Tulsa. It’s an older property that hasn’t been lived in for over five years, but the former owner kept it well-maintained, and you look forward to calling it home.
However, there’s a cloud behind the silver lining. When you apply for title insurance, the company refuses to issue it because your neighbor’s new workshop is standing on your property! When you ask them about it, they insist that the piece of land in question belongs to them. They’re polite, but they also tell you that they have no intention of moving the workshop.
What Can You Do?
If you can’t work something out with this neighbor, the next step may be litigation. In this blog, we’ll explain how adverse possession works in Oklahoma and how Pence Law Firm, P.C. can help you protect your rights.
Adverse Possession Explained
Under Oklahoma law, adverse possession, informally known as ‘squatter’s rights,’ occurs when someone who doesn’t have legal title to a property tries to claim it as their own. Before they can make this claim to the court, however, your neighbor has to meet five elements:
- Actual: They openly presented themselves as the owners of that piece of land. They maintained the property, told people it belonged to them, and generally acted as the legal owner.
- Open and Notorious: They publicly acted as if they owned the property. In other words, they did not maintain that workshop in secret.
- Exclusive Possession: They were the only ones occupying the land (until you came along!)
- Hostile: They intend to maintain possession of the land regardless of what you claim.
- Continuous: They must have met the above criteria for at least 15 years.
In some cases, the person using the land has no idea that someone else holds legal title to it. This can happen when there are no fences or other barriers to clearly outline each property or the land is so vast that boundary lines are blurred through confusion or by mistake. Unless the actual owner comes forward to contest their use of the land before the 15-year statute of limitations expires, they will eventually acquire legal title to it.
How Do You Deal With an Adverse Possession Claim?
As a property owner, you can avoid potential adverse claims in the future by having your land surveyed and erecting a fence. In your case, your neighbor is already using your land, but has only been doing so for around five years, so you should contact the following:
- A licensed land surveyor who will determine the exact location of your property boundaries. Their findings will help the court reach a decision.
- An Oklahoma real estate attorney with experience in helping clients resolve stressful and frustrating real property disputes. They can help you file an action to quiet title, which presents your situation to a court and, ideally, stops the other party from using your land further.
Contact a Tulsa Real Estate Lawyer Today
At Pence Law Firm, P.C., we can help you protect your rights and your investment if someone wrongfully claimed ownership of your property. To learn more about our real property disputes practice and go over your options, call (918) 367-8505!