Adverse Possession: own a house without paying for it

Real Estate Agent with Alain Pinel BRE 01367196

When I was studying to take the test to become a realtor, one of the topics that truly interested (and shocked) me was Adverse Possession. According to Nolo:


Legal Requirements for an Adverse Possession Claim to Land

When courts look at adverse possession claims, they apply a four-factor test. To qualify as adverse possession, the trespasser’s occupation of the land must be:

  • hostile
  • actual
  • open and notorious, and
  • exclusive and continuous for a certain period of time.

Essentially, one can own a house without paying for it through Adverse Possession.


This activist, Stephen Decaprio,  did just that, and is helping other people do the same. He was interviewed by Ashleigh Banfield on CNN. His point of being a better neighbor than an abandoned property is sound.



During the real estate market crash when there were nearly a tsunami of foreclosures, many affecting entire communities, there were several groups that assisted the homeless to move into vacant homes for what was at first intended to be temporary relief and accommodations.


BUT....some groups also intend to teach ways to acquire the homes through adverse possession.


This article "Housing a Movement: Adverse Possession in California" mentions California Civil Code Section 1006 that states "

Occupancy for any period confers a title sufficient against all except the state and those who have title by prescription, accession, transfer, will, or succession; but the title conferred by occupancy is not a sufficient interest in real property to enable the occupant or the occupant's privies to commence or maintain an action to quiet title, unless the occupancy has ripened into title by prescription."


Here's what the adverse possession laws say in the various states: Information on the Law about Adverse Possesion and the Requirements. 

I thought that now when the economy is recovering, there will be less attempts by squatters to take over living in properties they don't own. I can understand some of the humanitarian benefits of housing the homeless in abandoned homes....and hoping they will transform the property into something one can be proud of.


But for the squatters to actually break into a well-maintained and staged home that has a for sale sign on it? That's not an attempt for adverse possession.  That's malicious and criminal act of  breaking and entering. And there's only one place for the culprits to call home: JAIL!



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Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

I enjoyed your read tonight, and thought it had great points to share with the readers.

Jul 03, 2015 12:58 PM #1
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Thank you, Winston....Happy Independence Day!

Jul 03, 2015 01:43 PM #2
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Hard for me to wrap my head around folks acquiring homes through adverse possession is actually being taught.

Jul 04, 2015 10:30 AM #3
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Chris Ann, Asheleigh Banfield looked like she felt the same. In a way, if abandoned property cause blighted neighborhoods (like in some places in Detroit), maybe it's a good thing if people take over and bring back a semblance of pride in ownership. But some of the cases I read about is "hostile" possession.


Jul 04, 2015 10:33 AM #4
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Adverse possession does requires years and interesting that it would be advocated in CA

Jul 06, 2015 08:16 AM #5
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Pacita- I believe that there was a situation like this that occurred in Boca Raton a few years ago.  The person was in an upscale community and I believe that he learned how to do this from someone, perhaps a consultant. 

Jul 06, 2015 08:57 AM #6
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

The adverse possession in the article sounds like it is squatters taking over vacant, commercial buildings, and not single family residences. The owner, whether bank-owned, or individual, would have the right to evict squatters. It definitely falls in line with criminal intent, in my opinion. Utility companies in my area usually require proof of ownership, or tenancy, to turn them on. I can't see someone with established accounts becoming a squatter, but then you never know. 

Jul 06, 2015 08:57 AM #7
Thomas F. Scanlon
Borgida & Company P. C., CPA's - Manchester, CT

Pacita Dimacali - Well done. Not a topic I know much about. Having said that, it seems to me you can can a lot of unintended consequences with this law.



Jul 06, 2015 11:00 AM #8
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Pacita, Maybe different local laws, but in Ohio they taught us 21 years of occupancy to claim adverse possession.  And in general, I think they meant more of it in regards to land use than actually taking possession of a home.

Jul 06, 2015 11:33 AM #9
Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

I wasn't aware people were teaching these things but have heard about a couple of high profile cases where vacationers came home to people actually living in their home and the law would not/could not evict them because there were children involved.  Seems like one of these cases was in San Diego several years ago.

Jul 06, 2015 12:32 PM #10
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Hmm -- not aware of this.  I know some states require the payment of property taxes.. and that is where the claims will fail since the "squatters" do not pay the property taxes.

Here is what I found was required in CA

REQUIREMENTS FOR OBTAINING LAND BY ADVERSE POSSESSION A trespasser is entitled to legal ownership of property if his occupation of the property is hostile, actual, open and notorious, exclusive and continuous for a period of years set by state statute. (We explain each of these terms below.) Some states, such as California, also require the trespasser to have paid the local property taxes on the land.(1) The time required, which varies from state to state, is usually twenty years. It can be as short as five years when the trespasser pays the property taxes.

Jul 06, 2015 12:46 PM #11
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

Oh lovely someone going around teaching other people how to steal stuff.  I sure am  glad it takes 20 years in my state.

Jul 06, 2015 01:39 PM #12
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Ed Silva --- guess there will always be advocates for one thing or another, by one group or another, in one state or another, and not just in California.

Kathy Streib --- yes, this happened in Boca Raton. Remember this, when a squatter took over a $2.7M mansion, and police couldn't make him leave?

Pamela Seley --- unfortunately, squatters have taken over abandoned single family homes, too, not just commercial buildings. 


Jul 07, 2015 07:59 AM #13
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

Thomas Scanlon --- some folks will utilize every possible bit of knowledge to their advantage, especially on how to steal and cheat, albeit legally

Liz and Bill Spear ---it's different in each state.  According to this chart, n Ohio, with improvements "With disability: 21 yrs.; After disability lifted: 10 yrs." See

Evelyn Johnston, with groups like this, more people are learning about Adverse Possession and how to go about it.  See


Joan Whitebook --- that's how Stephen DeCaprio managed to do it: besides occupying the place, he also paid the taxes.


Tammy Lankford --- desperate measures by desperate people....


Jul 07, 2015 08:06 AM #14
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