Our Garage Is on Neighbor's Property: Can We Make the Land Ours Through Adverse Possession?

Having used a piece of your neighbor's property for years, it might be worth your while to assert a legal claim to ownership through adverse possession.


We've lived in our house for two decades, and our neighbor has lived in his for about as long. He's looking to sell and, in the process, has hired land surveyors to come and inspect the property lines. Turns out, our garage has been on his property this whole time. We had no idea, and neither did he. Now he wants us to knock down the garage so that the value of his property is greater. What can we do? Someone told us "adverse possession" law might let us keep the land.


Usually, adverse possession claims between neighbors arise from small encroachments, like sheds built or trees planted on the other person's land. Here, you have a relatively large encroachment: an entire garage. Nevertheless, it's possible that you can establish an ownership claim over the garage and the land it sits on.

For a "trespasser" like yourself to successfully establish a claim of adverse possession, your use of the property must have been hostile, actual, open and notorious, and exclusive for a continuous period, as set in your state's statute. Although the statutory period varies from one state to another, it is usually at least seven years. Read more about adverse possession claims.

The fact that this was an honest mistake might be the point upon which this case turns. States' laws on the definition of "hostile" vary. In some cases, it involves an awareness that one was trespassing; in others, not.

Other than that, you appear to meet all of the legal elements of adverse possession. You were occupying your neighbor's land for decades without asking permission and without him saying anything about it. You presumably drove your car in and out multiple times each day. He never told you to pay rent; he never had his lawyer write to you; and he never previously asked you to knock down your garage. Meanwhile, you went about using the land openly as if it were your own.

Be prepared for a court battle, however. Your neighbor has a lot on the line here. Losing that part of his land might significantly impact its value and, because of that, he might not back down without a legal fight. You and your lawyer will need to be prepared to prove that you meet all of the elements of adverse possession, or perhaps to settle the matter without proceeding through a complete trial.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Real Estate attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you