Whether you are a conveyancing lawyer, conveyancing solicitor or layperson, everyone knows about squatters' rights. Twelve years of adverse possession and possessory title is acquired – but, if legal title to the land is registered. This no longer the case. One of the foundations of English and Welsh land law has been disbanded and now looks very different. Part 9 of the Land Registration Act 2002, contains an entirely new structure.
It used to be the case that after twelve years of adverse possession, the owner of the land holds it on as trustee for the squatter who may apply to be registered as proprietor of a new estate, where the registered land is freehold, or as proprietor of the registered estate where that estate is leasehold (Land Registration Act 1925 s75 and the transitional provisions of the 2002 Act).
The Land Registration Act 2002 provides a new scheme for adverse possession of registered land. Adverse possession of itself, for however long, will not bar the owner's title to a registered estate in land (s96).
A squatter will now be entitled to apply to HM Land Registry to be registered as proprietor after ten years' adverse possession (s97 and Sched 6). The Land Registration Rules 2003 set out the procedure to be followed. It is important to use a conveyancing lawyer who is knows how to make an application on Form ADV1 and accompanied, among other things, by a statutory declaration. The registered proprietor, any registered chargee, and certain other persons interested in the land will be notified of the application.
If the application is not opposed by any of those notified, the squatter will become the registered proprietor. Otherwise, adverse possession for ten years will not by itself give a right to registration. If any of the people notified opposes the application it will be rejected, unless the adverse possessor can bring him or herself within one or more of three conditions contained in Schedule 6 para 5;