Adverse possession and registered land
In Dowse and Another v City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council  UKUT 202 (LC), the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (following a fully remote hearing conducted over Skype for Business) highlighted how the right of ‘adverse possession’ has been severely limited by the effect of the Land Registration Act 2002 for registered land.
The Land Registration Act 2002
Before 13 October 2003, if a squatter with the necessary intention to possess, occupied land with a sufficient degree of occupation and control for 12 years then they could (subject to some exceptions) gain registered title to the land through adverse possession.
The Land Registration Act 2002 (“the Act”) dramatically restricted this right (as indeed it was intended to). The time period that land had to be possessed for in order for an occupier to qualify for a claim for adverse possession was reduced to 10 years. In addition, it was made far easier to defeat a claim for adverse possession for registered land because when an adverse possession application is made, the Land Registry contacts the paper title owner to give them a chance to respond (a key reason why addresses on title registers should be kept up to date).
If the registered owner follows the objection process, then the squatter can succeed only on three grounds set out in statute. The relevant one in Dowse was the ‘adjacent land’ exemption. For this ground to succeed the following must be made out by the squatter (as set out in Schedule 6 of the Act):
(a) the land in question is adjacent to land belonging to the applicant,
(b) the exact boundary line between the two had not been determined,
(c) for at least ten years prior to the application, the applicant (or any predecessor in title) reasonably believed that the land in question belonged to them, and
(d) the land had been registered more than one year prior to the of the application.
Dowse and Another v City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council  UKUT 202 (LC)
Mr and Mrs Dowse claimed approximately two acres of land, which bordered land they owned (the garden of a residential property). The Council’s land formed part of a primary school, with the area in question bisected from the main site by a railway line.
It was submitted by Mr and Mrs Dowse that the ‘adjacent’ requirement meant that the only condition which needed to be satisfied was that they owned land which shared a boundary with the land claimed. The Judge decided that the area of land claimed could not all be said to be adjacent to their land, as only a small part of it was. For the ‘adjacent land’ ground to be made out “the whole (or substantially the whole) of the disputed land would have to be capable of being described as ‘adjacent to’ the applicant’s land for the condition to be satisfied“. Of course, this leaves open other questions of interpretation which the Tribunal may consider in a later case.
The intention of the Act was to restrict adverse possession to cases where there were genuine boundary disputes (in cases where people were relying on the ‘adjacent land’ ground), and the Upper Tribunal therefore was of the opinion that the ground could not apply to greater tracts of land, even where parts of it were adjacent to the Claimants’ land.
This case highlights how the doctrine of adverse possession in respect of registered land is greatly restricted by the Act and that the adjacent land exemption is likely to apply in very limited circumstances. Those seeking to make a claim for adverse possession will wish to seek legal advice on the strength of their claim but this case reaffirms that there are only a few defined situations where the doctrine of adverse possession will apply.
Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Park or your usual contact at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP if you have any queries. This insight is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice on the specific circumstances of the case.
Marcus Stuttard will provide his unique insight and a "state of the nation" market update.
UK Construction Law Update: What Happened in 2021? What can we expect in 2022?
The panel will cover a number of key construction law topics to ensure you stay in the loop
A Little Help from My Friends? New Measures on Assistance in the Collection of UK Taxes in Guernsey and the Isle of Man
An important development for individual taxpayers, trust companies and other professional services providers.
Property Patter: What can the property world expect from Parliament and the courts in 2022
What’s ahead in the world of property law during 2022
Environmental Land Management: Whose carbon is it anyway?
Everything you need to know about Environmental Land Management Schemes.
Top 10 Tips for dealing with Easements
Everything you need to know about dealing with Easements.
The changing leasehold landscape: Government consultation on reforming the leasehold and commonhold systems in England and Wales
Lauren Fraser and Laura Bushaway explore the changes occurring in the leasehold landscape process.
Michael Gove’s Letter to Residential Property Developer Industry to Fund Unsafe Cladding Remediation
Philanthropy Insights – A discussion with John Pepin and Rennie Hoare of Philanthropy Impact
Join us as we discuss the current landscape of philanthropy in the UK and current trends, priorities and concerns amongst philanthropists.
The green lease: back for good?
Emma Humphreys and Phil Webb look at the growing interest in green lease clauses.
Expert Shopping – Seeking to rely on a new expert
A practice known as expert shopping may see the court order the disclosure of the previous experts.
A not-so-festive period for hospitality: Government delivers funding to local authorities as hospitality industry suffers Christmas losses.
The pandemic’s 'depressing' impact – early signs of the courts’ approach to determining rent
On the employment horizon – 2022
We set out some of the key changes we anticipate over 2022 in employment law, and how to best prepare for them.
Playing for time with lease expiry
Emma Humphreys explores time with lease expiry from the perspective of tenant and landlord.
New Year, New Code! The New Homes Quality Code has been published.
Top 10 Tips: Terminating agricultural tenancies affecting development land
Everything you need to know about Terminating agricultural tenancies affecting development land.
The government’s Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill and revised Code of Practice
Emma and Laura explore the government's new Code of Practice for commercial property relationships.
Q&A: Timely guidance on service charges
Emma Preece and Brooke Lyne find that a recent Court of Appeal decision offers timely guidance on residential service charge matters.
What artists need to know about law
What should artists consider when entering contracts, whether with galleries, museums or other parties?