Acquiring Property By Adverse Possession

An Ohio Court of Appeals recently affirmed a determination that adverse possession had been achieved, even though conflicting testimony was presented on that subject at Trial.  Lloyd v. Newland, 2021-Ohio-2342.

In that case, Lloyd purchased property in 1997 that was adjacent to an overgrown lot owned by Newland.  A couple of months later, Lloyd requested that Newland and her sons clean-up and maintain the Newland property.  Nevertheless, several months later, the Newland property remained overgrown, and so Lloyd cleared it, and began taking care of the Newland property.  According to Lloyd, he then proceeded to mow the grass, built a pitching mound, filled in a valley, and planted a garden – all on the Newland property.

Newland testified that she did not pay much attention to her property, although she noticed that the grass had been cut, but didn’t know by whom.  In October of 2019, Lloyd filed a Complaint, asserting adverse possession of the Newland property.  Lloyd denied ever asking for anyone’s permission to do anything with the Newland property.  Therefore, there was contradicting evidence as to the adversity element of adverse possession.  However, the Trial Court found Lloyd’s testimony was more credible, and ultimately concluded that Lloyd acquired title by adverse possession.

The Appellate Court found that testimony was introduced at the Trial that Lloyd used the Newland property exclusively, and that Lloyd’s use was continuous, adverse, notorious, and open for more than 21 years.  Although there was conflicting evidence presented at Trial on the adversity element, the Trial Court was in the best position to determine whose testimony was more credible, and the Trial Court believed Lloyd’s testimony.  Thus, the Court of Appeals found that Lloyd provided clear and convincing evidence supporting each element of adverse possession and upheld the Trial Court’s decision.

Adverse possession is one of very few ways that ownership of real estate may be different than the public records reflect.  When purchasing real estate, be mindful of whether the elements of adverse possession might have been satisfied by someone else.  Obtain a survey, and make part of your due diligence whether and how the property you are purchasing is being used by others, and consult with counsel who has experience with these issues if you have any doubt or any questions whatsoever.