Articles Posted in Adverse Possession

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In July, 2008 the rules governing Adverse Possession in New York were modified by Chapter 269 of the Laws of 2008. As a result of a number of judicial decisions over the last several years which added further confusion to an already complex legal concept, the Legislature obviously felt it was time to try to add some clarity to this evolving area of the law.

The amendments to several provisions of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (“RPAPL”) more clearly define adverse possession (section 501) including that one may be an adverse possessor “with or without knowledge of the other’s superior ownership rights.” Sections 512 and 522 were changed by taking out the requirement that the property be cultivated or improved by the adverse possessor and instead inserting a provision that in order to claim adverse possession there must “have been acts sufficiently open to put a reasonably diligent owner on notice.”

While disagreement over what constitutes “sufficiently open” and a “reasonably diligent owner” may cause additional litigation, the amendment to section 543 of the RPAPL may provide some relief and clarity in an area that is probably the most common cause of adverse possession claims. The new provisions of section 543 state:

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Actual knowledge that another person is the title owner does not alone defeat an adverse possessor’s claim. In Walling v. Przybylo the Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-adverse possessors.

Plaintiff Walling commenced an action to quiet title upon learning that defendant Przybylo had the land surveyed and Przybylo had discovered that he had title to the disputed parcel. The county court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment finding that Walling had satisfied the requirements of adverse possession. In affirming the lower court’s finding of adverse possession, the Court of Appeals noted that defendants did not seek to assert their rights to the disputed parcel until almost fifteen years after they had purchased the property. The Court rejected the claim by defendants that plaintiffs’ knowledge of defendants’ ownership of the disputed parcel barred the adverse possession claim since plaintiffs otherwise met the criteria necessary to prove adverse possession,