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Adverse Possession

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27 pages24 minutes

Summary

Abby asks, “You were making enough money at age 16-years-old, that you could afford to buy or rent this house?”
I laugh, “No. My old man told me about something called adverse possession. If I moved into an abandoned house, established, in my name, water and sewer service, electric service, gas service, mail service, that sort of thing, paid the taxes and lived here, openly and notoriously, I had started the process of adverse possession.”
Abby asks, “You didn't buy the house or pay rent?”
“No, I just lived here and paid the utilities and taxes. I did talk to the county and got the taxes reduced by a bunch, since the house was now worthless, in a sale.”
Abby shakes her head in denial, “So you just lived in somebody else's house?”
“The old man who lived here, back when, had no family and he snagged a good job, far away from here, or so he told people around here. The house was worthless and his chances of returning were essentially zero. I had begun the legal process of adverse possession.”
Abby again shakes her head in denial, “What you were doing is legal?”
I lecture: “The legal theory of Adverse possession goes back to at least Roman law. The basic idea was that a person who uses land for a certain period of time has certain ownership rights to the land. Back when, adverse possession was mainly used with respect to farm land. A rural farmer would die, his lands laid fallow and the King, Emperor, whatever collected no taxes. A peasant would come along and begin to raise crops on land that he didn’t own and the King, Emperor, whatever again collected taxes.“
Abby intones, “There are only two sure things, death and taxes. They’re working on death.”
I continue my lecture, “In order to gain title to land, under adverse possession, you have to DIthings that are normally done with the land. Back when it was mainly farm land and farming. I live in this house. I established, in my name, water and sewer service, electric service, gas service, mail service, that sort of thing, paid the property taxes and lived here, openly and notoriously. I then wet through certain legal actions and I now own the house, via the process of adverse possession. Hell, I even have a legal deed.”
Abby asks, “So, you just got a house for free?”
I sigh, “It’s not quite that simple. If the legal owner had showed up during the wait period and told me to leave, he could have had me evicted, by the police.”
Abby says, “So, you moved into this house, held your breath for a long time and then got a house for free?”
“Yes. After I moved into the house I then took and passed the GED then bid farewell to the kiddie high school. I continued to work for the military base, especially after they had to cut back and had few suppliers. Even after the local base ceased to buy my refurbished military communications gear, other bases stepped in. I was living in this house, rent free, and making a decent living. I then began to take college classes, by computer, and I also taught myself how to program military computers. I worked the educational system for all of the credits for 'life experience' that I could get. I also raised a few crops on the vacant lot, next door and I also hired people to harvest some timber, from the woods on the other side.”
Abby is shocked, “Jim, you tell me you were stealing other people's property?”
“It wasn't and it isn't stealing other people's property, it's called 'Prescriptive Easement,' in legal terms.”
Abby looks hard at me and asks, “What's this Prescriptive Easement thing?”
“If you, openly and notoriously use someone else's property, for a year, you have established the beginning of Prescriptive Easement, although it's a bit more complicated than that.”

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