One of the most fundamental rights of Rhode Island property ownership is the ability to exclude trespassers from your property. However, if a landowner is not careful, continuous trespassers may be able to claim an ownership right in the property if they can meet the elements of a Rhode Island adverse possession claim. The adverse possession doctrine is sometimes referred to as “squatter’s rights.”
At its most basic, adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a person to acquire an ownership right in another’s property. The idea behind the doctrine is that the government wants to encourage landowners to put the property to use. Thus, if a property owner “sleeps on their rights” while another puts the property to use, then the user of the property can gain a property right in the area that is possessed. Common examples of adverse possession include use of an abandoned road or farming on vacant land.
In Rhode Island, a person seeking to adversely possess property must be able to meet each of the elements of a Rhode Island adverse possession claim for the statutory period of ten years. Courts in Rhode Island have held that, to establish a claim of adverse possession, a possessor of land must establish that their possession has been “actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous, exclusive, and under a claim of right.” Below is a brief explanation of each element:
- Actual – an adverse possessor must take some action to indicate their possession
- Open and notorious – a person claiming adverse possession must possess the land openly, and cannot make any efforts to hide their use or possession
- Hostile – a person claiming adverse possession cannot have possessed or used the property with the owner’s permission
- Continuous – all elements of an adverse possession claim must be met for the entire duration of the statutory period
- Exclusive – the land must be exclusively occupied by the person claiming adverse possession
- Under a claim of right – the person attempting to adversely possess property does not need have been mistaken or to have done so with innocent intentions, as long as they claim to own the property
If any of these elements go unmet during any period of the 10-year period, the adverse possession claim will fail. Additionally, there are some circumstances where a party’s adverse possession claim will fail. Typically, these involve property owned by minors or those who are incapacitated or imprisoned.
Are You Fighting Off a Rhode Island Adverse Possession Claim?
If you have recently discovered that another party is attempting to claim an ownership right in property that you own, contact the dedicated Rhode Island real estate attorneys at the law firm of Bilodeau Capalbo. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we assist Rhode Island property owners with any legal issues they face, including title issues, zoning matters, and boundary-line disputes. In addition, we represent buyers and sellers of real estate in both residential and commercial real estate transactions. To learn more, call 401-300-4055 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced attorney today.