Category Archives: Squatters’ Title

Third party’s use of land for unrelated purpose did not support squatter claim

The grant of a licence to make a particular use of land is an indication that the licensor regards himself as in control of the land, and therefore indicates that he has an intention to possess it.

The parking of a vehicle in a restricted space can amount to an act of possession if
it demonstates an intention to control the space.

Acts of possession done on parts of the land to which a squatter’s title is claimed may be evidence of possession of the whole. The issue is whether there is such a ‘common character of locality’ between the different parts as to raise a reasonable inference that the disputed land belonged to the person who has possessed it in the same way as the other parts did.

In the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber) case of Re Land adjoining 19 Bridge End, Billington, Clitheroe [2015] the claimant had licensed a third party to park a vehicle on hardstanding outside a garage and to the west of it (“the Western Land”) -though insufficiency of space meant any vehicle also having to encroach onto land to the front of that hard standing.

The tribunal said:

– the garage was enclosed whereas the Western Land was open land; and,

– the boundaries of the garage (its walls) were clear, whereas the boundaries of the Western Land were not obviously delineated.

The claimant’s possession of the garage for storage purposes raised no reasonable inference that the claimant was also in possession of the hard standing, still less of the whole of the Western Land. That inference was ruled out because the boundaries of the Western Land were not “obviously defined”.

Was the hard standing to the west of the garage so inherently linked to the garage itself as to raise the reasonable inference that the claimant was also in possession of that hard standing?

No, because:

(a) The claimant did not use the Western Land for storage. Instead it was used by a third party licensee for the purpose of parking a motor vehicle in connection with that licensee’s occupation of his own neighbouring house;

(b) That use for parking was not in any way related to the use of the garage, but rather to the use of that licensee’s own house, some distance from the garage; and

(c) the claimant’s possession of the garage for the purposes of storage alone could not give rise to any reasonable inference that the claimant was also in possession of the Western Land, which was used for an entirely different purpose.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.

Residential squatting being a crime did not prevent title by adverse possession

Section 144(1) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, (“LASPOA”) criminalises trespass by “living in” a residential building. Did this prevent time running for applications for registration of title by adverse possession? That’s to say the registration of so-called squatter’s title, to registered land? The Chief Land Registrar decided that it did.

In the High Court Judicial Review case of Best v The Chief Land Registrar & Anor [2014] Mr Best had taken occupation of the then empty and vandalised property at 35 Church Road, Newbury Park in 1997.

The High Court ruled that Parliament could only have enacted s144 as it did on the assumption that adverse possession was not affected by whether the trespassory acts of possession was criminal or merely a trespass solely actionable in the civil courts.

So Parliament must have thought that criminalising trespass would have no effect on the operation of adverse possession for registered, and indeed unregistered land.

Had Parliament thought otherwise, it would surely have given some thought to the consequences and made some specific provision for them.

Parliament should be taken to have thought that the mere fact that the adverse possession was based on criminal trespass did not and should not preclude a successful claim to adverse possession especially in view of the public policy advantages of adverse possession at common law in terms of ensuring that land remained in economic use.

The fact that the trespass was a crime was not of itself a sufficient circumstance to prevent adverse possession from being an adequate basis for extinguishing or transferring the former owner’s title to the squatter.

Accordingly, the Chief Land Registrar’s decision was founded on an error of law as to the effect of Section 144 of LASPOA on adverse possession.

The decision in this case seems to conflict in principle with the rule against getting a prescriptive vehicular rights of way across common land in circumstances where driving across common land is illegal.

This blog has been posted as a matter of general interest. It does not remove the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.