Adverse possessions

What is Adverse possessions or possessory possession?

Adverse possession is when a person gains title to a property if they have remained in that same property for a certain amount of time.

A person or persons who has occupied the Land for the prescribed amount of time, in certain circumstances can prevent the true owner from reclaiming the Land.

Length of time required to claim title 9544936_l

In order for a person to successfully claim title to a property over the true owner, and extinguishing their title at the same token, a person must gain uninterrupted possession of a property for 12 years or longer in Queensland and New South Wales.

In Victoria for a person to be successful in their claim of adverse possession, they must have stayed at the one place for 15 years or more.

A person in New South Wales can potentially make a claim for Crown land through adverse possession if they have lived in the same place for 30 years.

How is adverse possessions proved?

The claimant must have evidence of occupation and law

Adverse possession means not mere occupation but also actual physical possession in an open and peaceful manner, without consent of the original owner.

The claimant will need to be able to prove to the Titles Office in the State of jurisdiction that they have occupied the land for the entire period of time required.

If there is any form of permission (such as a licence, lease, or agreement to use the land), adverse possession cannot be claimed because it will be clear that the owner never intended to pass over ownership.

Who can claim adverse possession?

Anyone who is prepared to take possession of a vacant property or land subject to meeting all the requirements of the Laws of the State of jurisdiction.

If you were intending to attempt this seek advice from a property Lawyer as gaining adverse possession isn’t an easy process and few people will gain land through this method.

The law and squatters

Under the Limitations Act 1969 in NSW a claim of adverse possession can be made against an owner after living in the property unobstructed for a period of 12 years. 

This is an interesting law also known as “squatter’s rights”.

Squatters are not tenants.

Squatters occupy premises without the consent of the person who is legally in possession (typically the owner).

That’s why property owners want them occupied by legal tenants as a property that has been unoccupied for some time has the potential to be claimed by a squatter.

This could happen in the case of a deceased estate that may be in litigation for some years because of claims against the Will or no Will existing and the relatives do not have the right to take possession and have to leave the property empty until the estate is resolved

Garth Brown’s Comments9180619 - 3d illustration of a scale and two houses

Adverse Possession was recently bought to the fore when a Sydney squatter made news because he is attempting to claim legal ownership of a million dollar terrace by citing a historic tenancy law using an arcane real estate law.

Whether or not this squatter will be successful remains to be seen but it highlights the dilemma faced by property owners with unoccupied premises (as outlined in the above paragraph), as squatting has become a way of life for a growing number of people and it can be very difficult and expensive evicting them.


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Garth Brown


Garth Brown is the Founder and Director of Brown and Brown Conveyancers one of Sydney’s leading Conveyancing Firms. With 20 years experience as a practicing Conveyancer he has assisted hundreds of Clients to navigate through the maze of conveyancing issues when buying and selling property. Visit

'Adverse possessions' have 15 comments


    October 20, 2020 Frank Michen

    Hi Michael,
    If there was a deceased estate of a close friend whom had no next of kin and no will can be found.
    Can adverse possession be claimed after 12 years of paying utilities and maintaining the premises or would this eventually become the Crown’s property?


      Michael Yardney

      October 20, 2020 Michael Yardney

      How did the property remain vacant for 12 years?



        October 21, 2020 Frank Michen

        Hi Michael,

        The property has only been vacant 1.5 years but the utilies and rates are currently being paid by myself as well as maintenance .
        As there is no next of kin or will, if I was to continue this for 12 years can adverse possession be claimed?



    July 12, 2020 Martin Dewhirst

    If it’s a deceased estate that is just getting over grown. The next of kin seems to be uncontactable. I’m happy to maintain it for them in case they are eventually found. After 12 years does that mean I can make a claim. To prevent squatters living next door to me


      Michael Yardney

      July 12, 2020 Michael Yardney

      Martin – I see you have a New Zealand email address – I don’t understand the NZ rules – bets check with a local solicitor



    January 7, 2020 Kevin Brennan

    We currently allow our neighbor to run his sheep on our property in Queensland for the past 6 months
    He has installed irrigation on our existing fence and a water tank and pump using water from his bore on his property
    He has also just erected a new additional fence to create an additional paddock
    Would he have any claims to the section of land that we have allowed him to use



    November 13, 2019 Dee

    Hi, After 30+ years a squatter in QLD has stated that he was given official documentation that he now has the legal right to stay there. However, he is now trying to sell the property. Is this legal? Would he have paperwork that says he now OWNS the property or just that he has the right to stay there? I hope you can help and appreciate your time. Thank you.



    November 9, 2019 RFM Scott

    Can adverse possession claims be made against a property which has no listing in the NSW LRS? The property has been empty for some years, but the house and land have power and water running to them (currently not turned on, but that’s just a matter of arranging it with the power and water companies, presumably). If one were to pay council rates, power & water and renovate and maintain the house and land, while living there for 12 years, can a claim be made to the title, despite there being no title on the land registry?


      Michael Yardney

      November 9, 2019 Michael Yardney

      I know there are seminars teaching you this technique this is NOT something I would advocate – it doesn’t seem right does it to pinch someone’s property



    August 14, 2019 Jack

    Michael, that’s very interesting as the advice I’ve received states zero substance to substantiate a claim, so from this point forward I don’t think I’ll waste any more money.



    August 10, 2019 Jack

    It is my understanding that under Torrens Title land in NSW that a claim for Adverse Possession against the legal owner cannot be made for part of the lot e.g. a section of land. Is this correct? Also, if the person making this claim from their neighbouring property have only used this area of our land for 4 years being the time from their purchase, can they use the cause of action date being from the date of their previous owners purchase, which was 2010?


      Michael Yardney

      August 10, 2019 Michael Yardney

      Jack – it sounds like you have a claim against you – may I suggest you seek professional legal advice


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