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Does a garden cause you to think about adverse possession?

In the state of New Hampshire, it is possible for your neighbor to gain title to property you thought was yours without your consent.

Adverse possession is common law that property owners often ask about since it involves encroachment on a piece of land. Fortunately, you can take action to protect your property from this kind of claim.

New Hampshire case law

In order to prove adverse possession, the abutter must show “adverse, continuous, exclusive and uninterrupted use” of the piece of land that is in question for a period of 20 years. In certain instances, adverse possession does not apply. For example, no such right can be acquired on state lands, public property or land on which town houses, churches or schoolhouses stand.

What you can do

Let us say that there are woods bordering your property on the north. Your neighbor owns property on the far side of the woods, and he has built a garden on a small, cleared section that you thought was part of your land. His family has owned their property for over a hundred years and may think the little garden spot belongs to them. Your next step is to schedule a survey of your property so you can identify your boundary lines. If the survey shows an encroachment, you should speak to your neighbor. You can either grant him permission to continue using your property for his garden or ask him to move it. Be prepared for a discussion about adverse possession: It is possible that your neighbor may already own title to the part of the property where he is planting his tomatoes and cucumbers.

Settling the matter

Dealing with the issue may be as simple as drawing up an agreement that you and your neighbor can approve. However, the law as it pertains to adverse possession can be confusing. If your neighbor has become contentious over the garden plot matter, a real estate attorney can sort out the details and help you resolve what may amount to a trespass dispute.


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