One of Shropshire’s leading agricultural lawyers has warned the county’s farmers and landowners to check Land Registry documents to ensure “every inch” of their land is legally registered.
The alert has come from Hannah Taylor, a senior associate at law firm mfg Solicitors, who has spoken out following a growth in ‘adverse possession’ cases - which can see a person without a legal land title becoming the owner by being in possession of the land in excess of 10 to 12 years.
Ms Taylor said she has dealt with a growing number of cases where neighbouring landowners have possessed land which does not belong to them, some by growing crops or keeping horses, but have claimed ownership through adverse possession laws, successfully convincing the Land Registry to record the land in their name.
Ms Taylor said: “Many farmers and landowners here in Shropshire own hundreds of acres of land and some have lost small sections of that land due to adverse possession laws, also commonly known as ‘squatters rights’.
“Whilst there is no guarantee that an application will be successful if someone has used the land for a specific number of years, it has caused stressful situations for a growing number of landowners and driven considerable delays on any sales, or when remortgaging.
“With the issue gaining more and more profile in recent years, it highlights not only the importance of checking every inch of boundaries and fencing on a regular basis, but also ensuring the Land Registry’s records accurately reflect the actual position in the property’s deeds. It sounds simple, but if land is already registered correctly, it makes it more difficult for someone making an adverse possession claim.
“Overall, adverse possession claims from either side are hugely complex and time consuming, with specific steps and procedures which must be taken as part of the process. More than anything, it’s a growing problem which highlights exactly why expert legal advice should be the first port of call, both proactively and reactively.”
Ms Taylor, an expert in a range of agricultural and rural-related business issues, added that expert advice would help farmers and landowners to understand the two adverse possession regimes in England and Wales.