Is it possible to homestead land belonging to someone else by something called "adverse possession"?
I own a few acres of land that I rarely visit. Is it true that if someone erects some sort of structure on my land, claiming improvement, and I don't remove it within a certain number of years, they can claim my land? I always keep the taxes paid. Can we do something about it so we don't lose the land?
It does appear that your state, Arkansas, allows adverse possession. It looks like someone would need to "hold" the land continuously for 7 years--i.e. been in possession of it--and also:
1) They have to know it's someone else's land; e.g. thinking it's some sort of unclaimed state land OR that the adverse possessor bought it or has some right to it doesn't count; the person must believe they are "adversely" possessing it against someone else.
2) The possession has to be open and visibible, so that the true owner can tell that someone is essentially squatting on your land.
To avoid adverse possession, visit it every or so years and check it out thoroughly; if you see any signs of someone being there contact the police or sheriff as its trespassing, and if turns out someone is trying to possess the land, bring an eviction action. Get rid of other people's structures on your land. Basically, demonstrate ownership and control and don't let anyone else have anything like that 7 year period of uninterrupted, hostile possession.
Even if there's nothing and no one there when you visit the land, document your visit thoroughly, so if someone later tries to claim they were possessing your land, you can show that they were not doing so openly and visibly.
The term "adverse possession", sometimes referred to as "squatter's rights", is a legal doctrine providing that if certain requirements are met, one can legally take another's property without paying for it. Below are the statutory requirements for adverse possession in AR. 1. Actual - The adverse possessor must have had actual physical control over ther property and must have acted a manner consistent with being the owner of the property. In AR, the adverse possessor must have paid property taxes. 2. Open & Notorious - The adverse possessor must have engaged in acts of possession in a manner which was capable of being seen and consistent with being a property owner. It may be possible to claim adverse possession of a vacation property on the basis of use only during the vacation season, or to claim adverse possession of a vacant parcel of land by engaging in typical acts of maintenance for the parcel. 3. Exclusive - The adverse possessor does not occupy the land concurrent with the true owner or share possession in common with the public. One does not have to exclude others from the land in order to claim "exclusive" use, but during the "statutory period" (see below) the person claiming title by adverse possession must have been the only person to treat the land in the manner of an owner. 4. Hostile - Hostility exists where a person possesses the land of another intending to hold to a particular recognizable boundary regardless of the true boundary line. That is, possession is "hostile" to the title owner's interest in the property. You cannot claim "adverse possession" if you are engaged in the permissive use of somebody else's land. 5. Continuous and Uninterrupted - All elements of adverse possession must be met at all times through the statutory period in order for a claim to be successful. It may be possible to claim adverse possession even if there is a transfer of ownership through the principle of "tacking". For example, a former owner's four years of adverse possession can be "tacked" to the present owner's 6 years, for a cumulative 10 years of adverse possession. In AR the statutory period, that is the duration of such possession, is 7 years for unimproved and unenclosed land held under color of title, and 15 years for wild and unimproved land held under color of title. 6. Color of Title - A claim to title by adverse possession often must be made under color of title. Color of title means a claim to title by way of a fact which, although on its face appears to support a person’s claim to title, is in some way defective and falls short of actually establishing title to the real estate. An example of a claim made under color of title would be a deed whose execution was defective or is in question. Another common example is where 2 or more persons have received separate deeds to the same parcel of real estate. At this point you should consult directly with a real estate attorney in your area as to all of this.