NH Law About... Adverse Possession

Introduction to... Adverse Possession

Posted March 16, 2017.

Adverse possession is a method of acquiring exclusive ownership of land even though someone else holds the title to that land. You may see it referred to as the "doctrine of adverse possession" or, less elegantly, as "squatter's rights." Although many other states have put adverse possession into their statutes, New Hampshire has not, and it is in case law – which is as authoritative and binding as statutory law - that you will find most of the elements that must be proven in court. According to Basic Real Estate Practice (2012), the elements of adverse possession are: the use must be adverse (without permission and hostile to the owner's interests); it must be notorious (the owner has had notice of the use); it must be continuous and uninterrupted; it must be exclusive (not in common with neighbors, or others), and it must be for a period of at least 20 years as defined in the statute of limitations for the recovery of real property (see RSA 508:2, I).  Adverse possession applies only to private property, not to public lands, waters, highways or transmission lines.

We often refer researchers to the New Hampshire Practice series and three books in that series talk about adverse possession: Local Government Law (§876), Municipal Taxation and Road Law (§45.04), and Real Property (§8.06). Basic Real Estate Practice is a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) title published by the New Hampshire Bar Association. These all give reliable information on aspects of New Hampshire’s law on adverse possession and all are available through Interlibrary Loan from the Law Library or at public libraries throughout the state. Follow the links below to find out where. The two websites listed below are not about New Hampshire law but provide good information on adverse possession. Just remember to check the New Hampshire sources as well. 

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ...  is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.  

 


Read about... Adverse Possession

WEBSITES

Legal Information Institute. Adverse Possession  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

National Paralegal College. Acquisition by Adverse Possession  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017


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Basic Real Estate Practice. New Hampshire Bar Association. 2012  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

Local Government Law / Peter J. Loughlin. 3d Ed., 2011

General considerations. Introduction -- General provisions regarding municipal corporations -- Municipal charters -- Municipal home rule -- Cooperation between governmental units. Government of cities. City charters -- Governing boards of cities -- City officials. Government of towns and village districts. Organization of towns -- The town meeting -- Town officials -- Village districts. Public officials, employees, and boards. Public officials -- Public employees -- Municipal boards and commissions -- Hearings before public officials -- Conflicts of interest. Public records and meetings. New Hampshire's Right to Know law -- Public records. Municipal powers. Limits on municipal powers -- Power to contract -- Eminent domain -- Municipal property -- Ordinances -- Licensing. Municipal liability. Actions by and against municipalities -- Municipal liability for torts -- Civil rights -- Antitrust. Elections. General election provisions -- Town and village district elections -- City elections.   GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

Municipal Taxation and Road Law / by Peter J. Loughlin. 2008  GO>

Link verified on: May 18, 2017

Real estate / by Charles Szypszak. 2003  GO>

Link verified on: May 23, 2017

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Read the law about... Adverse Possession

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 231:174. Lines of Telegraph and Other Companies in Highways. No Prescriptive Right   GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 236:30. Highway Regulation, Protection and Control Regulations. General Provisions. No Adverse Right  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 477:33. Conveyances of Realty and Interests Therein. No Prescription Against the Public. Waters  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 477:34. Conveyances of Realty and Interests Therein. No Prescription Against the Public. Property  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 508:2. Limitations of Actions. Real Actions  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 539:5. Wilful Trespass. State Lands  GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

RSA 539:6. Wilful Trespass. No Right Acquired by Adverse Possession of State Lands   GO>

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: July 21, 2017

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

121 N.H. 32 (1981). Hewes v. Bruno

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

The common-law doctrine of adverse possession developed from the statutes of limitation on actions for the recovery of land. The primary purpose of such statutes is to bar stale claims by legal owners of land. Because an owner of land must bring an action within the statutory limitation period, the possession of the occupant must be of such a nature as to have given the owner a cause of action. To successfully maintain a claim based on adverse possession, the possessor and its predecessors in title must show adverse, continuous, uninterrupted use of the land he claims in such a manner as to give reasonable notice to the record owner that an adverse claim was being made to it.   GO>

121 N.H. 653 (1981). Town of Weare v. Paquette's Estate

Link verified on: August 7, 2017

In order to sustain her claim of title by adverse possession, [the defendant] was required to show twenty years' adverse, continuous, uninterrupted use of the land. She was required to show that the nature of her use was sufficient to put the owner on notice that an adverse claim was being made to the property.   GO>

139 N.H. 223 (1994). State v. Tallman

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

Because the State's rights in land are not always enforced and protected with the same vigilance as private rights, the legislature has determined that no person can acquire title to State lands by adverse possession   GO>

155 N.H. 29 (2007). Blagbrough Family Realty Trust v. A. & T. Forest Products, Inc.

Link verified on: March 16, 2017

In order to obtain title by adverse possession, the adverse possessor must prove, by a balance of probabilities, twenty years of adverse, continuous, and uninterrupted use of the land claimed so as to give notice to the owner that an adverse claim is being made. In addition, adverse use is trespassory in nature, and the adverse possessor's use of the land must be exclusive. The success or failure of a party claiming adverse possession is not determined by the subjective intent or the motives of the adverse possessor. Rather the acts of the adverse possessor's entry onto and possession of the land should, regardless of the basis of the occupancy, alert the true owner of the cause of action. In evaluating the merits of an adverse possession claim, courts are to construe evidence of adverse possession of land strictly. The law requires more than occasional, trespassory maintenance in order to perfect adverse title; the use must be sufficiently notorious to justify a presumption that the owner was notified of it.   GO>

158 N.H. 380 (2009). Mastroianni v. Wercinsk

Link verified on: August 7, 2017

A use of land is adverse when made under a claim of right where no right exists. Adverse use has been defined as a use without license or permission. Adverse use is trespassory in nature. Use is trespassory if it consists of a wrong which the fee holder can prevent or for which he can obtain damages by means of legal action.   GO>

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Reports

Link verified on: July 21, 2017

Find the New Hampshire Reports in libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

Link verified on: July 31, 2017

Contact the Lawyer Referral Service at (603) 229-0002, or submit an online referral request. Office hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and 9:00AM to 3:00 PM on Fridays.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: July 31, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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