A dispute between the title owner of a piece of land and an adverse possessor of land may be settled by the court in an action before the Massachusetts Land Court. In a July 18, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case, the plaintiff sought to quiet title in the face of adverse possession assertions made by the defendants. The defendants then counter-claimed with a suit for adverse possession of the parcel. The matter went to trial and was decided by the land court.
The parcel at issue in the case was a vacant, one acre piece of land in Massachusetts. The parties did not dispute that the plaintiff was the record owner of the parcel. The central question in the case was whether the defendants had adversely possessed all or a portion of the one acre parcel. In Massachusetts, title by adverse possession can be acquired only by proof of non-permissive use, which is actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse for twenty years. The person claiming adverse possession, i.e., the defendants in the case, had the burden to prove that each of these elements continued uninterrupted for a period of at least twenty years.
The defendants had openly cultivated and farmed a significant portion of the parcel from 1992 to 2007. The land court found, however, there was no evidence or testimony that the farming activity had continued past that. Accordingly, the court held that the defendants’ farming activities, which continued uninterrupted for at most 16 yeas, was not sufficient to prove the twenty years required to establish title by adverse possession.