Advice: Local farmer is using my dead neighbour's land. Can he claim squatter's rights?
Q. I have noticed that since the death of a local elderly farmer, a neighbour has been using his land as if it were his own and recently put up a fence around it. I know the neighbour has not inherited the land but I don't know who has as the elderly man had no children or family that I know of. Will the farmer using the land be able to claim squatter's rights?
A Each year many cases appear before the Courts in an effort to untangle complex land ownership issues, of these many issues, adverse possession also referred to as squatter's rights is just one.The topic of adverse possession is always a contentious one as it inevitably involves the dispossession of a land owner of at least some of his/her lands. It often arises between neighbours and can relate to small pieces of lands/boundaries as well as including an entire farm.
A squatter is a person who unlawfully inhabits an uninhabited house or unused lands.
Squatter's title or adverse possession can be claimed in relation to lands where the squatter does not live but instead has control of, in this case a farm.
In order to claim adverse possession over property it is essential that the occupier is not paying any sort of rent, whether in monetary terms or through some other means of compensation to the land owner eg labour, accommodation etc.
The Supreme Court held that for possession to be adverse it must involve the intention by the occupier to exclude the owner from the enjoyment of the estate or interest.
In other words there must have been an intention on the part of the occupier to use the lands.