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Could you lose your property due to adverse possession?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2021 | Real estate transactions

If you are an Arizona resident who owns multiple properties, keeping up with the legal status of your real estate investments is vital. Property management can be complex when there are many units and dwellings scattered over different parts of the state.

Problems can arise when a property owner’s busy schedule keeps them from making regular checks on their holdings to ensure that each dwelling is well-maintained if occupied or safely secured when vacant. In a worst-case scenario, the actual owner could lose their property through the legal concept of adverse possession.

What does Arizona law say?

Adverse possession laws arose here in Arizona when the area was still very much a part of the wild west. Back in the 19th century, hardy pioneers began homesteading on lands that already had ownership claims by other individuals or groups. Back in those days, making good use of arid desert land was encouraged.

Now, however, squatters on land they do not own can become its legal owners by entering the dwelling and assuming possession of it publicly. Without the consent of the property’s rightful owner, the squatters must exclusively possess the land continuously for a decade or more. This differentiates them from illegal trespassers who may occupy a property sporadically and without permission.

But there is a shortcut available

“Tacking” is the term used when there is a succession of adverse possessors of the same property and each takes ownership of the property for fewer than the 10 years required under Arizona law. Here’s how tacking works to deprive a rightful property owner of a piece of real estate.

John Doe adversely possesses a dwelling for six years before selling and relinquishing it to Sam Smith. Mr. Smith then occupies it for an additional four years. This tactic is sufficient to satisfy the state’s 10-year rule for continuous possession.

Don’t lose your property to adverse possession

Because there are additional caveats and exceptions to the law, it is very important to investigate all legal angles that can allow you to foil the attempts of the adverse possessor of your property.