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Land and the Law of Adverse Possession

            Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Path of Law said "a thing which you have enjoyed and used as your own for a long time, whether property or an opinion, takes root in your being and cannot be torn away without your resenting the act and trying to defend yourself, however you came by it." That seems to be the case regarding the law of adverse possession. Adverse possession is, in fact, the process of dispossessing the previous holder and occupying the land until the owner's rights to recover it is time-barred under the Limitation Act 1980 in relation to unregistered land, or the adverse possessor is registered as a proprietor to registered land. In other words, if there is a person residing on someone else's land without any right, title or payment of rent under government regulation, this person is allowed to acquire the title to the land and extinguish the rights of the 'paper owner'.
             The purpose of adverse possession is to encourage beneficial use of the land. It balances the equity between the person using the land and the owner who may not even know he has the land and encourages the alienability of the land. It also settles border disputes and facilitates efficient transfers of property. .
             Back then, adverse possession was obtained through the indirect effect of the Limitation Act 1980. The time frame provided within which a paper owner should bring an action to reclaim his land in section 15, which states that limitation period for actions for the recovery of land is 12 years. Possession of the land is required to be continuous. Section 17, however, provides that once the 12-year period has elapsed, the paper owner's title will be extinguished. Tichbourne v Weir held that the squatter holds his own estate in the land under a new title, freehold land. Now, a squatter has better rights to the land than its paper owner. After 12 years of adverse possession, the Limitation Act 1980 prevents the legal owner from raising a claim of possession.

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