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Understanding Rhode Island Adverse Possession Claims

Although trespassing is against the law in Rhode Island, adverse possession is legal a loophole that allows individuals to secure an ownership interest in a piece of property after a certain amount of time has passed. To avoid this issue, landowners should familiarize themselves with the basics of adverse possession claims in Rhode Island so they can best protect their property right and their ownership over their land.

In general, adverse possession laws allow people who improve and live on otherwise neglected property or land to gain legal title after a certain period of time has elapsed. Although this period of time varies from state to state, Rhode Island’s temporal requirement is ten years. This means that an individual who is a continuous trespasser could claim legal title to otherwise neglected land after openly living on it for at least ten years.

Although the Rhode Island law appears simple, there are additional requirements that must be met by the individual who is “squatting” on the land. Courts in Rhode Island have held that “squatters” seeking to establish a claim of adverse possession must prove that their possession of the land has been “actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous, exclusive, and under a claim of right.”

Understanding each of the required elements to an adverse possession claim is crucial.

First, to meet the “actual” requirement, the individual bringing the adverse possession claim must have taken action to indicate that they own the land. This could potentially be established if the individual paid property taxes or made improvements to the land. Second, to meet the “open and notorious” element, the individual must have possessed the land openly, without attempts to hide their use. Third, to meet the “hostile” element, the person bringing the adverse possession claim cannot have gotten the land without the owner’s permission. Fourth, to meet the “continuous” factor, all of the elements required of an adverse possession claim must have been met for the entire duration of the 10-year period. Fifth, the “exclusive” element is met when the “squatter” is exclusively inhabiting or using the land. Finally, under the “claim of right,” Rhode Island does not require that the individual bringing the claim to be mistaken or have occupied the land with innocent intentions, as long as they claim to own the land.

Each of these elements must be met for the duration of the ten years that the individual resided on the land, or the adverse possession claim could be unsuccessful. In addition, in circumstances where adverse possession claims are brought by minors or individuals who were incapacitated or imprisoned, their claims may fail also.

Are You Battling Off a Rhode Island Adverse Possession Claim?

If you or someone you know recently discovered that another party is attempting to claim an ownership interest in property that you own, contact the Rhode Island real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo. Our lawyers have represented Rhode Island property owners in all types of claims, including zoning disputes, boundary-line issues, and title matters for decades, and can help you confront whatever issues you are facing. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 401-300-4055.


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