Registration of Ownership of Property Based on Adverse Possession/Squatter’s Title-the Basics

adverse possession ireland

Have you lived in a property for a considerable period of time and now want to be registered as owner of that property with the Property Registration Authority?

Adverse Possession/Squatter’s Rights

One way to do this is by “adverse possession/squatters rights”.

Section 13 of the Statute of Limitations act, 1957 provides that no action to recover land can be taken at the end of a period of 12 years, unless there was established fraud, mistake, or disability.

The two relevant rules are rule 17 and rule 45 of the Land Registration Rules, 2013.

Rule 17 of the Land Registration Rules, 2013 provides:

Application for first registration based on possession

Where an application for registration of ownership of property is based on possession, or where the applicant has no documents of title in his/her possession or under his/her control in relation to such property, and the Authority is satisfied on inquiry or otherwise that the applicant is in possession or in receipt of the rents and profits of the property, the application may be made in Form 5, with such modifications as the case may require.

Therefore, to succeed with an application to the Property Registration Authority you must prove

  • Dispossession or continued dispossession of the owner
  • Adverse possession taken by you
  • Continued adverse possession for at least 12 years
  • No disability, mistake, or fraud exclusion to your claim.

The dispossession of the true owner must show an intention to exclude the true owner from enjoyment of the property and the possession must be inconsistent with the owner’s enjoyment of the land.

Unregistered Land

Applications for first registration of a freehold interest in unregistered land are made in form 5, applications in respect of registered land in form 6.

The application for a freehold interest in unregistered land based on adverse possession/squatter’s title requires documentary title of at least 15 years starting with a good root of title and showing

  • The person entitled to the property on the date of dispossession
  • That person’s interest on that date
  • Evidence that possession taken was adverse.

You must show that the property has devolved to you and if you claim in succession to others you will have to show who they were, how they acquired their interest, and have written documentation to support your assertions. If you claim to have acquired some of your interest by adverse possession you will have to show the names and addresses of the people against whom you make that claim.

Proofs required

A summary of the proofs you will require include

  • Proof of adverse possession for at least 12 years. This will require an affidavit from you, corroborating affidavits from neighbours, documentary records and vouchers, etc
  • A PRA approved map
  • A general valuation office certificate
  • Details of all rated occupiers during the period of adverse possession and details of all persons registered as owners during the period of adverse possession
  • Death certificates, where necessary
  • Tax clearance certificate from Revenue Commissioners in respect of CAT (Capital Acquisitions Tax)

Registered Land

Section 49 of the Registration of Title Act, 1964 allows for this:

Registration of title acquired by possession.

49.— (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Statute of Limitations, 1957, shall apply to registered land as it applies to unregistered land.

(2) Where any person claims to have acquired a title by possession to registered land, he may apply to F62 [ the Authority ] to be registered as owner of the land and F62 [ the Authority ], if satisfied that the applicant has acquired the title, may cause the applicant to be registered as owner of the land with an absolute, good leasehold, possessory or qualified title, as the case may require, but without prejudice to any right not extinguished by such possession.

(3) Upon such registration, the title of the person whose right of action to recover the land has expired shall be extinguished.

(4) Section 24 of the Statute of Limitations, 1957, is hereby amended by the substitution, for “section 52 of the Act of 1891”, of “ section 49 of the Registration of Title Act, 1964”.

 

Rule 45 of the Land Registration Rules 2013 provides:

Title to registered property acquired by possession
45. Pursuant to Section 49 of the Act, any person claiming to have acquired a title by possession to registered property may apply for his/her registration as owner in Form 6 with such modifications as the case may require. The Authority if satisfied that the said person has acquired the title, may register the applicant as full owner with absolute, good leasehold, possessory or qualified title, as the case may require.

Special Cases

Unproved wills

Strictly speaking, possession on foot of an unproven will is not “adverse possession”. Nevertheless, a section 49 application may be accepted by the PRA if possession of at least 12 years is shown.

Spouses

A person cannot be in adverse possession to his/her spouse.

Lost Deed Possession

This is not adverse possession either, but a section 49 application may be used and accepted by the PRA.

Possession by Personal Representatives

A personal representative, since the commencement of the Succession Act, 1965, could bar the beneficiaries by 6 years’ adverse possession.

Action by Personal Representative

An action can be taken by a per rep of a deceased landowner seeking recovery of land has 12 years to bring the action to recover.

Next of Kin

A next of kin, with an entitlement to a share in an intestate estate, can bar the rights of other next of kin by adverse possession.

Section 125 of the Succession Act, 1965 states that where two or more persons enter into possession of land they shall be deemed to have entered and acquired title by possession as joint tenants as regards their own shares and the shares of the other next of kin who do not enter.

The Supreme Court case Gleeson v Feehan [1997] 1 ILRM 522 held that “the possession of lands by members of the family who had remained thereon was at all times adverset to the title of the true owner, the President of the High Court, in whom the entire estate in the lands was vested pending the raising of representation, and as they had been in possession for over 12 years, had acquired a title to the land as joint tenants”.

Relevant Sources

Land Registration Rules 2013

Adverse Possession – Title by Adverse Possession to Registered land guide from Land Registry

Statute of Limitations, 1957

Registration of Title Act, 1964