How Long Does it Take to Get Adverse Possession in Texas?

It varies depending on the trespasser’s actions 

Adverse possession is an extreme legal remedy in real estate. Most people are shocked to hear that a trespasser can get someone else’s real property by simply using it for a period of years. Although it’s true, in reality it’s very difficult to accomplish.

Typically, these actions are between neighbors—one or both of whom are confused about where their property lines are. Adverse possession cases are fact-specific, meaning the person that adversely possesses the land of another must conduct themselves strictly in the manner required under Texas Code.

Reports in Texas media show that there are Texans who think pulling off an adverse possession case is easy, but don’t let it fool you; those people are now facing criminal charges.

How long must trespasser possess the land

The default period for adverse possession in Texas is a decade—referred to as a 10-year statute of limitations. That means the true owner has up to 10 years to oust the adverse possessor or terminate their possession. Shorter statutes of limitations apply under the following circumstances:

  • Three-year statute of limitation if the adverse possessor has some written document proof of title—like a hard copy of an original deed (but clearly mistaken)—giving them title to the property § 16.024 Texas Code
  • Five-year statute of limitation if the adverse possessor cultivates, uses or enjoys the land, pays applicable taxes on the property and again has document proof of title § 16.025 Texas Code

There is a 25-year waiting period that applies in some limited situations—like an owner who is disabled. Texas law does allow tacking, which is combining periods of time between successive owners. For example, if an adverse possessor used the land for five years, then sold their interest to a subsequent adverse possessor, who continued to adversely possess the land for another five years, the subsequent adverse possessor meets the 10-year statute of limitations.

How does someone adversely possess the land of another?

Under Texas law, to acquire title to property by adverse possession, a person must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence—meaning the evidence is more likely than not: 

  • visible appropriation and possession of the property. The adverse possessor must use the land in a way that would give notice to others, especially the owner, that the adverse possessor believes they are the true owner.
  • that is open and notorious—meaning you can’t hide your use; it must be out in the open
  • under a claim of right—for example an erroneous property survey
  • that is adverse and hostile to the claim of the owner—meaning the adverse possessor can’t have the permission of the actual owner to use the property. For example, sharing the land with the owner or being a tenant of the owner
  • that is consistent and continuous for the duration of the statutory period—meaning the statute of limitations may reset if the adverse possessor changes conduct in some way that appears as a break in possession

The factors boil down to the adverse possessor acting in a manner expected of the owner of the real property for a continuous and unbroken period of time.

Experienced legal help necessary

As simple as the factors seem for proving an adverse possession claim, or defending against one, there are many areas a property owner can make a mistake. Mistakes in real estate are obviously costly. An error could diminish the use, value or enjoyment of home, business, farm, or recreational property. Property owners on either side of a potential adverse possession claim should talk to an experienced Texas real estate attorney as early in the process as possible. For more information on this area, check out our overview of real estate laws.

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