Plaintiff Prevails in Massachusetts Adverse Possession Claim Against Property Developer

Gathering evidence to support an adverse possession action can be daunting, but a Massachusetts real estate lawyer can assist you in putting forth the strongest case possible.  The plaintiff in an August 29, 2019 case succeeded in establishing title by adverse possession to two separate areas of land abutting her property.  The Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the decision of the lower court after examining the evidence she presented to make her case.

The plaintiff in the case purchased her home in 2000.  To the west and south, her property directly abutted an undeveloped, wooded land owned by the defendant.  The west area was a mowed, grassy area, with no permanent improvements.  The south area was largely covered by a paved basketball court, with one permanent post, backboard, and hoop.

The defendant did not dispute that the plaintiff had established the elements of adverse possession over the west and south areas during the 14 years that she has owned her property.  Rather, the question was whether the plaintiff could prove that the prior owner of her property had also met the required elements for the remaining 6 years, in order to establish a 20-year period of adverse possession.

In Massachusetts, title can be acquired by adverse possession only upon proof of non-permissive use, which is actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and adverse for a period of twenty years.  The nature and the extent of occupancy required to establish a right by adverse possession vary with the character of the land, the purposes for which it is adapted, and the uses to which it has been put.  Fundamentally, the adverse possession test is about the degree of control exercised by the plaintiff.  The elements of an adverse possession claim are met, therefore, where the changes made to the land are considered acts usually and ordinarily associated with ownership.

On appeal, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence of the prior owner’s use and maintenance of the disputed areas from 1983 until 2000.  Although the prior owner did not use the basketball court on the south area for the preceding 6 years, the court found that the permanent installation of the paved basketball court and hoop, together with regular maintenance of grass perimeter around it, was sufficient to satisfy the actual use requirement of adverse possession.

The court also found that the parties lawn maintenance was sufficient to qualify as actual and open use of the disputed areas, noting that the mowing occurred inside a well-defined, easily identified, tree-lined boundary that did not move or change during the entirety of the 20-year period.  Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the judgment granting the plaintiff title by adverse possession.

At Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts real estate lawyers have the resources to assist homeowners and buyers in advancing their real estate objectives.  We can provide legal advice in all areas of residential real estate law, including adverse possession and easements, title insurance, nonconformity issues, tax liens, mortgage financing and bridge loans, and more.  To arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced real estate attorneys, call Pulgini & Norton at (781) 843-2200 or submit the contact form on our website.

Contact Information