Protecting your land from potential Adverse Possession claims is actually quite a simple two step process:
Step 1 – Inspect your property regularly; and
Step 2 – Remove trespassers.
First, inspect your property on a regular basis to ensure that nobody else has been using it, building on it, etc. If, upon inspecting your land you note that someone may be using your property without your permission, then move on to step two. If nobody appears to be using your land, or if they are not doing so in a way you would discover upon inspection (i.e. nobody is openly possessing your land), then you have nothing to worry about.
Second, if you do find somebody using your land, ask them to stop doing so and request that they stop their activities at once. In other words, get them off of your land as soon as possible. While it may be tempting to confront the person(s) possessing your land by yourself, please do not do so. Rather, contact your local police or sheriff’s office to report a trespass and let them deal with the actual confrontation, there is no reason to create or put yourself into a potentially dangerous situation.
There are numerous other things that you can do to help protect yourself and your land from claims of Adverse Possession. One recommendation is to have your property surveyed by a professional surveyor. Technology within the surveying industry has improved so much in the last few years with the advent of accurate and accessible GPS technology. In fact, often, people might find that surveys, borders, and property lines that have been assumed accurate and/or relied upon, are in fact inaccurate. For this reason, spending the money to have a new and accurate survey of your property prepared is not a terrible idea, and may well reveal some potential Adverse Possession claims itself.
Another way to protect yourself from a potential Adverse Possession claim is to pay attention to what is going on at the properties surrounding your land. Many Adverse Possession claims stem from slight encroachments over the border of two pieces of property. These encroahments are very often the result of construction of some sort. Whether your neighbor is installing a deck, a shed, a driveway extension, or a new fence, if the new construction is taking place on or close to the border of your land and that of your neighbors, you should check to ensure that none of the new construction is actually encroaching onto your land. As discussed above, getting a new survey of your property prepared will help you in analyzing whether or not your neighbor’s new construction is encroaching onto your land.
Finally, if you wish to allow somebody else to use a portion of your land for some extended period of time, have a qualified attorney such as the Gabriel Law Office, PLLC draft up a permissive use agreement. Such an agreement can be as simple as an authorization to utilize a small portion of land, or, it can go much further and discuss such issues as payment for this use, contribution towards repair costs/work, liability for injuries or damages that result from the use of the land, etc. Permissive use cannot be Adverse Possession. Creating written documentation that you are providing a potential claimant under Adverse Possession with permission for their use will likely defeat any later claim for Adverse Possession.