Adverse Possession Against State-Owned Property
Adverse possession is a way in which a party can gain title to land owned by someone else by occupying it over time. The possession must be open, notorious, hostile, and must last for a period of 15 years or more. For a more detailed description of adverse possession, click here.
Similarly, someone can also create an easement by adverse possession, called a prescriptive easement, by using another persona’s property for ingress or egress for a period of over 15 years. More information on prescriptive easements can be found here.
But what if the neighboring property is owned by the state or other government? A state statute in Michigan prevents adverse possession or prescriptive easement actions against the State of Michigan or any political subdivisions. MCL 600.5821 prohibits any claims for adverse possession, acquiescence, or a prescriptive easement against the State of Michigan and “a municipal corporation, political subdivision of this state, or county road commission.” This would be typically applicable to those who own property adjoining state land or property owned by a political subdivision of this state. Normally, if structures such as fences, driveways, walkways, or sheds are placed over the property line, after 15 years of existence, assuming the other elements of adverse possession are met, title to the land occupied by those structures would shift to the user, not the state or political subdivision. However, in this case the statute prevents that transfer of title. If the state or political subdivision brought an action, those structures would need to be removed from the public land.
If you have questions regarding adverse possession generally, or this issue specifically, please contact me.