Ownership of land is the great Australian dream yet it is becoming harder and harder for the average person to achieve. However, some people have developed innovative thinking on how to achieve this goal.

The recent 'bizarre squatter's rights case' in Sydney is an example of this innovative thinking using where a developer successfully used the law of 'squatter's rights'. In that case, a developer took possession of an abandoned home, renovated it, leased it out for 19 years, and subsequently applied and successfully received legal title to the home.

In less bizarre cases of using the law of squatter's rights people have successfully taken strips of land, driveways, gardens and successfully become registered on the title to the land on which they have squatted. In Legal speak, squatter's rights is actually the operation of the law of Adverse Possession.

What is Adverse Possession?

The basic principle of Adverse Possession in Western Australia law is that if you squat on land long enough, as required by the law, you can claim legal title to the land on which you have squatted.

This can be achieved by an application process through Landgate or by squatters applying for an order providing them with registered title But what is adverse possession and how can a person determine if another person, whether it be a squatter or neighbour, is 'adversely' possessing land?

How can you tell if a person has adversely possessed land?

Adverse possession is the continuing possession of land without being the registered landowner with the accompanying entitlement to exclusively possess the land. Some of the evidence required to establish adverse possession of land is:

  • possession of land for a period usually of 12 years or more or in some cases 30 years where the registered proprietor has a disability;
  • possession of the land without the consent of the registered landowner;
  • exercising physical control over the land in a manner that is inconsistent with the possession of the true owner;
  • exercising 'exclusive control' over the land; and
  • the intention to exercise control over the property known to the world.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.