What is an Adverse Claim?

When the rights of one person interfere with the sale or transfer of a piece of property, including real estate, what happens next? In some cases, you may have grounds for an adverse claim, which would allow you to restrict the current owner of the property from selling it or even allow you to retain possession of the property. Working with a lawyer is essential to protecting your rights when you have grounds for an adverse claim. 

Adverse Claims: The Legal Definition

An adverse claim includes circumstances under which one party has an interest in a specific financial asset when it violates the rights of that person for someone else to hold, transfer, or sell the asset. It can include both cases in which it would be a violation of that party’s rights for another party to own that property and cases in which the individual has another type of property interest, established by law, in that property. 

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is a common type of adverse claim. It commonly occurs in real estate when a non-owner occupant of a piece of land is ultimately granted the title to and ownership of that piece of land. Generally, adverse possession occurs when one party exclusively lives on or uses the land, continuously uses that piece of property, and has taken it over completely. These are also known as “squatter’s rights.” Sometimes, adverse possession may occur by accident: for example, when one homeowner places a fence over the property line of the other’s land and begins to use that property as their own, with no complaint from the original property owner or effort to take the property back. 

The time limit on adverse possession varies by state but may range between three and 30 years. 

Adverse possession occurs when the user takes the property without the consent of the original owner and continues to use that property continuously over a long period of time. Often, the original owner will not discover the encroachment until it is too late to protect against it. 

Intellectual and Virtual Property Applications

In addition to applying to solid financial assets and real estate, adverse possession claims can apply to digital or intellectual property, including ideas, concepts, and copyrights. The user may need to show continuous, open, and ongoing use of those assets in order to claim them. A lawyer can prove essential during this process. 

Managing an Adverse Claim

When you believe you have the legal right to own a specific property even though you do not currently have physical ownership, or you believe that the transfer or sale of a specific type of property may encroach on your rights, working with a lawyer is essential. A lawyer can:

  • Establish your right to the property
  • Determine whether your rights fit the terms of an adverse claim
  • Support you as you move forward with a case

Having a lawyer on your side can ensure that you know your state’s laws and can protect your rights, increasing the odds that you can protect that property. If you have questions, do not delay. Working with a lawyer from the beginning can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.




Morris & Dewett provides this information to the public for general education and interest. The firm does not represent clients in every topic discussed in answers to frequent questions. The information is curated and produced based on questions commonly asked or search terms commonly used. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. Do not make any decision solely based on the information provided, please seek relevant counsel for each topic area. Consult an attorney before making any legal decision, consult a doctor before making any medical decision, and consult a financial advisor before making any fiscal decision. Information provided is not legal advice. If you have any legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are pleased to assist you.

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