In many adverse possession cases, the plaintiffs’ claim to property arises from a long-held, yet mistaken, belief that they own the land at issue. This situation was presented in a May 28, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case before the Land Court. The plaintiffs in the case filed an action against their neighbor, claiming title by adverse possession to a strip of land they had long believed was part of their property.
The land at issue in the case was a narrow, 13 foot wide strip of land on the side yard of the plaintiffs’ residence. The plaintiffs’ property consisted of two lots, both of which had been owned by their parents, and before that, their grandparents. From the time the second lot was conveyed to the plaintiffs’ family in 1949, they believed that two iron surveyors’ pipes marked the lot’s side boundary. They cleared, used, and improved that area in the same ways they did for the rest of their property, fully incorporating it.
As a matter of record title, however, the plaintiffs were wrong about their ownership over the strip of land. A survey of the lot conducted in 1948 had erroneously shifted its boundaries, and the two surveyors’ pipes were approximately 13 feet beyond the true record boundary of the second lot. In fact, the record owner of the strip was the plaintiffs’ neighbor and the defendant in the case, who had acquired the adjacent lot in 1991. The plaintiffs subsequently filed a claim in Land Court seeking a declaration that they acquired title to the strip by adverse possession.