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What Is Adverse Possession in Kentucky?

What Is Adverse Possession in Kentucky?

Your most precious assets may be your home and land. That’s why you should be aware of trespassers establishing legal claims to your property. They do this under the lawful concept of adverse possession Kentucky. This law essentially allows a trespasser to take possession of a piece of property if the actual owner doesn’t object within a set amount of time. It‘s important to check on your property to make sure all of your Kentucky land remains yours.

Adverse possession Kentucky is a legal principle that allows a trespasser to take ownership of another person’s property, legally, by acting as if the property belongs to them.

The Homestead Act of 1862 established adverse possession laws. Adverse possession laws are on the books in many states, including Kentucky. These regulations allow someone to take ownership of a piece of property if they’ve publicly lived there for a certain amount of time, made changes to the property, have a deed to the property, and have paid either rent or property taxes on it.

While adverse possession appears unjust, proving ownership isn’t easy. In Kentucky, adverse possession rules, often known as squatters’ rights, demand strict verification of specific factors before a trespasser can take a land title away from the actual owner.

The Louisville attorneys at O’Bryan Law Offices are knowledgeable and experienced with adverse possession Kentucky. Contact us today at (502) 400-4020 for more guidance on this topic. 

Adverse Possession Kentucky

The general common law concepts of adverse possession are followed in Kentucky’s adverse possession statute. Basically, the trespasser acts as though the property is his for a specific amount of time. It sounds simple, but it really isn’t. That’s because the trespasser bears the burden of proof in establishing an adverse possession Kentucky claim. In other words, if you have a property title, you’re believed to be the owner of that property until an adverse possessor presents enough evidence to a judge to gain possession of all or part of it.

Don’t confuse adverse possession with an easement to access another person’s property. Adverse possession results in a shift of title and the related right to keep others from the property, whereas easements involve shared rights with others for pieces of property. An example of this is a neighbor having an easement to access their property via your driveway.

To use adverse possession Kentucky to take ownership of property, the trespasser must meet these criteria:

  • Have actual possession of the property.
  • The trespasser’s possession is hostile; they don’t have permission to be there.
  • The use of the property was exclusive to the trespasser.
  • Possession of the property was open and notorious.
  • All of these requirements must be met by the trespasser for 15 years.

Actual Possession

The trespasser’s control of the property must be actual possession. Meaning, the trespasser must exert dominion over the property after gaining access to it. This could be accomplished by making improvements such as paving a road or constructing a building. “Actual possession,” like all the other conditions, is fact-specific.

Hostile To the True Owner

The trespasser can’t be there without permission. It must be a hostile possession. In the case of someone renting the property from an owner, they cannot gain title through adverse possession Kentucky. That’s because the possession is permissive when the landowner is aware that someone is using the property and actively allows the use.

Possession is Exclusive

The trespasser establishes his ownership was exclusive after proving that it was actual and hostile. He does not share possession with the general public or even the rightful owner. However, if the owner uses one section of the land and the trespasser uses another, Kentucky law allows someone to claim ownership of a portion of it through adverse possession.

Open and Notorious

To be open and notorious, the trespasser utilizes the property in a way that isn’t hidden from the owner and clearly demonstrates that the trespasser wishes to have authority over it. Building a structure, as well as participating in “substantial activity,” are likely to meet this requirement.

Continuous for 15 Years

Kentucky’s statutory period is 15 years. Before filing an adverse possession Kentucky claim, the trespasser must meet all of the above elements for a period of 15 years. The clock stops and adverse possession cannot be claimed if the owner takes action before the 15-year period expires and disrupts any of these conditions, such as by granting permission for use or initiating an ejectment action.

Color of Title Property Law

There’s an exception under Kentucky law. A trespasser must continuously occupy the property for 15 years. That’s if they can show the land was occupied “under color of title.” This means the trespasser proves they’re the true property owner. In this case, the statutory period is only 7 years. 

There are ways to establish “color of title.” Sometimes the county clerk office’s property deeds or records aren’t clear, hinting that the trespasser was the actual owner. This is enough to establish the shortened statute of limitations.

Action to Quiet Title

What should you do if a trespasser or a neighbor intrudes on your Kentucky property? Of course, the first step is to speak with the person and request that he or she remove any buildings from your land and leave your property. If the mistake wasn’t intentional, the person is likely to respect your request.

Seek legal advice from a Louisville attorney if the trespassing continues, and file an action to quiet title. This is a legal procedure for identifying who owns a piece of property.

You’re seeking a Kentucky state court judge to make an order proclaiming that you, not the trespasser, are the real owner and title holder of the land in an action to quiet title. This is especially useful if you’re trying to sell your home and want to reassure potential buyers.

Squatters Rights Kentucky

The original owner is responsible for using their property and evicting any squatters. In many states, it’s the responsibility of property owners to ensure that uninhabited property benefits the community and serves a purpose. If a piece of land with a decaying house is left unattended for decades, the courts are likely to rule in favor of the squatter who has made improvements.

Squatters have the right to use the property once they’ve entered it, and if they’ve lived there long enough, they can become the legal owners of the property. Landlords and property owners must ensure they can show they legitimately own the land.

Tips for Protecting Yourself From Squatters in Kentucky

It’s important to protect your property and your legal ownership of it. Here are some tips to make sure a trespasser cannot claim adverse possession Kentucky on a home or land you own.

Visit the Property

The first step in keeping squatters off your property is to visit it on a regular basis. The more often you or someone else visits the property, the more likely squatters are spotted quickly and removed.

Install Window Locks

Adding window locks to all of your windows helps make sure your home is secure. Squatters can’t access your home if your windows are sealed.

Add Steel Fittings

Placing steel fittings or metal frames on your windows and doors adds a level of security that will prevent almost all squatters and thieves from entering your property.

Block Roof Access

Make sure there are no access points on the roof. Squatters can claim legal ownership of a property if they can get access through an existing opening or a vandalized entrance point. Adding locks and steel fittings reduces the likelihood of squatters finding a point of entry. 

Alarm Systems

Linked alarm systems are the most effective anti-intruder equipment. Many systems now come with apps that send notifications to your smartphone when something happens on your property. If your alarm system has cameras, your smartphone can also display images of what’s going on.

Get To Know Your Neighbors

If you can’t visit the property on a regular basis, enlist the help of a neighbor. If possible, ask a neighbor you trust to check on your property once a month. At the very least, have someone to contact if your alarm system goes off if you live out of state.

Cap the Utilities 

Finally, capping off any utilities is a smart move. It makes it harder for squatters to reconnect things like water and electricity and serves as a strong deterrent. 

Call the O’Bryan Law Offices Today

If a trespasser is occupying your land, don’t wait to take action. If you aren’t proactive, they could end up with ownership under the adverse possession Kentucky statute. Call O’Bryan Law Offices right away to schedule a free consultation about your situation. Our Louisville attorneys have helped thousands of families and individuals in their time of need. Call us at 502-400-4020 right now.

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