Adverse possession, sometimes described as “squatter’s rights,” is a legal principle under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land (real property)—may acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission of its legal owner. State statutes and the common law govern adverse possessions in Indiana. To successfully claim ownership through adverse possession, individuals must first meet several requirements:
1. Actual Possession: Adverse possessors must physically occupy and use the property. Mere trespassing is not sufficient; the possession must be actual and continuous.
2. Open and Notorious: Possession must be visible and obvious to the true owner. It should be clear that the possessor is asserting their claim to the property.
3. Exclusive Possession: The adverse possessor must possess the property exclusively, excluding the true owner’s rights and the rights of other potential adverse possessors.
4. Continuous Possession: Possession must be continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period, which in Indiana is 10 years.
5. Hostile and Adverse: Possession must be hostile, meaning it is without the true owner’s permission and with the intent to claim ownership.
Paying Property Taxes in Indiana
In addition to the common law requirements listed above, Indiana also has a statutory requirement that, in most cases, the adverse possessor must pay property taxes on the property during the 10-year period. Failing to pay property taxes can be grounds for denying an adverse possession claim. Paying property taxes demonstrates a willingness to assume ownership responsibilities and obligations. It also serves as a notice to the true owner that someone else is claiming ownership. Usually, the adverse possessor may only meet the open and notorious requirement if they pay property taxes.
Exceptions to the Property Tax Requirement
While paying property taxes is generally a requirement for adverse possession in Indiana, there are a few exceptions and nuances to that rule. In some cases, a claim for adverse possession by a governmental entity or certain tax-exempt entities may be successful even if that entity has not made the typically required property tax payments. Additionally, if an adverse possessor pays taxes that they reasonably believe are for the land in question, they may be able to proceed on their claim even if their payments were not actually for that land.
If you are looking to hire a lawyer to help you better understand the nuances of adverse possession, contact McNeelyLaw today. Our experienced team of attorneys can protect your interests and explain the applicable legal requirements.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.