Posted On: June 20, 2010 by The Snyderman Law Firm


In Delaware, a person will be declared the owner of another’s property if he is in possession of that property for 20 years, and if his possession is determined by a judge to consist of the following 5 elements:
(1) actual possession
(2) continuous;
(3) open and notorious;
(4) hostile; and
(5) exclusive

Each of these 5 elements has been the subject of litigation, and the Court has had to look at these items based on the facts of each particular case because what might be open and notorious, for example, in one case might not be in another.

In the above example, actual possession could be found to exist when the neighbor actually used the land on his side of the fence as his own property and as a typical property owner would. Mowing the grass, gardening, storing fire wood, etc. are the kind of uses that establish actual ownership.

The same person does not have to use the property in question for 20 years in order for adverse possession to be continuous for 20 years. Instead, the Court allows tacking on between successive owners. What this means is that if the neighbor sells his property to another person who continues to use the property on his side of the fence in the same way that the previous owner did, the chain is not broken.

In my next article about adverse possession, I’ll address the other elements and I’ll give some real life examples.