What is the law regarding abandonment of real estate and property taxes?

UPDATED: Aug 3, 2011

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What is the law regarding abandonment of real estate and property taxes?

A piece of land has an existing brick house on it that has become over grown. No one has done anything with the property in at least 5 years. It is my understanding that if land has been abandoned, the owner does not have to pay property taxes. If so, can someone take possession of the property by going to the treasurer’s office and have the deed changed to reflect that they want to take possession of the property?

Asked on August 3, 2011 South Carolina


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You are talking about the legal concept of "adverse possession". In all states there are statutes allowing adverse possession of real proeprty where if a person openly, notoriously, under claim of right without interruption for a period of  at least five years occupies a piece of property and excludes all others, and pays the property taxes for the five year period can end up owning the property by way of adverse possession.

After the five year period has run, the person doing the acts to constitute adverse possession would file a lawsuit against the owner of record to have the court declare that the former owner has lost title to the property. If the judge or jury agrees, then a judgment is entered and recorded on the property transferring legal title from the former owner to the new owner.

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