What are squatters' rights?


‘Squatters' rights’ is a term used for adverse possession where an individual occupies land belonging to someone else, continuously for a number of years without permission from the true owner. 

Adverse possession can cause issues when selling or buying land. There may be discrepancies between the boundaries on the title plan and the physical occupation of  land. 

A long term squatter can become the registered owner of land they occupy. The individual claiming needs to demonstrate that they have:

  1. had uninterrupted continuous possession for a period of 10 years in respect of registered land or 12 years for unregistered land;
  2. had the intention to possess the land;
  3. sufficient exclusive physical control and the capacity to exercise this control; 
  4. possession of the whole area being claimed to the exclusion of all others;

The effect of establishing adverse possession is to defeat the true owner of the land and the individual claiming would become the legal owner.

The Land Registry’s approach on adverse possession is based on neutrality and fairness. 

In the case of registered land on receipt of an application, the Land Registry will notify the paper owner, who is given the opportunity to object. If the application is not opposed, the applicant will be registered as proprietor in place of the paper owner after the expiry of 65 business days.

If the paper owner objects, the matter will be referred to the Land Registry’s dispute resolution regime.

For more information, please contact Susie Murray on s.murray@ashfords.co.uk.

Sign up for legal insights

We produce a range of insights and publications to help keep our clients up-to-date with legal and sector developments.  

Sign up