How do I claim title to property through adverse possession? Owner deceased 10yrs, I’ve occupied for almost 3 yrs.

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How do I claim title to property through adverse possession? Owner deceased 10yrs, I’ve occupied for almost 3 yrs.

I have occupied a resident for almost 3 years, all utilities are in my name, I’ve done
repairs to the property, and paid 6 months of property tax. When I attempted to pay the
remaining years property tax, it had already been paid by someone who has never lived
on the property, and is not a family member of the deceased title owner. I have not been
able to pay the property tax since 2015 due to this stranger paying them in advance. I
got a phone call today from the SON of the person who has paid these taxes,
threatening me to get off THEIR property. My question is, do I still have right to file for
the property title through adverse possession if I’ve only paid 6 months worth of taxes if
I have proof the utilities have been paid and in my name since the day I moved in, and I
currently occupy and have consistently and outwardly occupied the property for almost
3 years? Or can this person really make me homeless overnight? Also, do they have
right to even be on the property? I have a posted no trespassing sign, the title is still in
the decedents name, and they have never occupied the property. Or is it within my legal
right to call the police and report them as trespassers if they come inside my gate?

Asked on May 3, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, you have NO legal right to or interest in the land. That does not mean the other person has a legal right or interest, unless his claim as been settled or deterined by a court (e.g. probate court, in terms of inheritance), but it is clear that you have no right to it. (Someone other than you will be the owner.) Generally in your state, you must occupy the land for ten (10) years; while that time period can be shortened by paying the taxes, it must be three *full* years of paying taxes and occupancy, and then you would have had to bring a legal case for adverse possession before someone else started paying the taxes. Since you have occupied for only three years and only paid 6 months of property taxes, you do not meet the first, most important criteria for adverse possession--that being the case, nothing else matters. (And note: putting the utilities in your name is never relevant and never contributes to giving you ownership of land.)
So you are not a legal owner of this land. Whomever is the legal owner--and while you don't know yet if this person is the legal owner, he may be, and may well be able to prove that he is--can have you removed from the land. If you call the police on the legal owner and/or the legal owner's representative for trespassing, you could face liabiity for filing a false police report and abuse of process: you have no right to exclude the owner from his/her land.
Simply occupying land without title or a lease does not give you an rights; there are "squatter's rights" except what you might get from adverse possession which again, you do not qualify for.
If it appears there may be a legal owner trying to retake possession of the land, you may be best advised to begin looking for some place else to live.


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