Adverse possession is a real estate concept under which one party can take ownership of the land that another person owned by occupying it for a certain amount of time and meeting certain criteria. Adverse possession allows the person who is actually occupying the property to have official ownership after a period of time. It also gives landowners an incentive to keep an eye on their property and eject anyone who should not be there. If you are concerned about a piece of property that you own, you should contact a knowledgeable Rhode Island real estate attorney to help you understand your rights to the property.
In order to prevail on an adverse possession claim, a plaintiff must prove all of the elements by clear and convincing evidence. The requirements for adverse possession are that the possession of the property is actual, open, notorious, hostile, under claim of right, continuous, and exclusive. What this means is that the party that is trying to assert a claim to the land through adverse possession must treat the property as their own, without the permission of the original owners of the property. They also need to be continually occupying the property for 10 years. Once the plaintiff has proven that they have fulfilled these requirements, the court can officially grant them the property.
In order for a court to grant summary judgment, a party must prove that there are no material facts in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In this case, the plaintiff asked the court to declare that they had become the owners of the property through adverse possession. The defendants argued that the boundaries of the adversely possessed land were not clear and that the descriptions of the land that the plaintiffs provided were contradictory. The trial court granted summary judgment on the fact of the adverse possession but said that the specific boundaries of the property still needed to be figured out.
Supreme Court Holding
The Rhode Island Supreme Court vacated the summary judgment finding and remanded the case back to the Superior Court. The court focused on the specific nature of adverse possession proceedings. They noted that adverse possession is an especially fact-specific inquiry. Thus, the plaintiffs needed to have provided evidence of each of the elements of adverse possession in order to prevail on their summary judgment motion. The evidence must be enough to prove all of these elements clearly and convincingly.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court also noted that since the specific boundary was in dispute, it is impossible to grant summary judgment because the parcel itself is not identified. In other words, the property needed to be defined before ownership could be ascertained. Thus, the summary judgment was thrown out so that the lower court could hear evidence on each of the elements of adverse possession and clarify the boundaries of the property.
Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Real Estate Attorney Today!
If you do not properly tend to your property, someone else may be able to argue adverse possession. If you are concerned about your property, you should contact a skilled real estate attorney. The knowledgeable attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, can help you protect your property. Use the form on this website or call (401) 300-4055 today for a free consultation!
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