Posted On: April 17, 2010 by Duncan H. Adams and Kasey C. Libby

GEORGIA STATUTES DICTATE ADVERSE POSSESSION, PRESCRIPTIVE TITLE, AND COLOR OF TITLE -- “SQUATTERS RIGHTS” ARE ALIVE AND WELL

As a Georgia property title lawyer, I know that under Georgia law property title law, individuals that do not hold legal title to land may take ownership of land legally under several scenarios. For many non-lawyers, this is hard to understand or believe. Georgia property owners need to be made aware of these types of situations in order to protect their right of ownership. Georgia law offers a number of ways that real property ownership can be transferred. Under Georgia law, adverse possession, prescriptive title, and color of title, are commonly referred to as “squatters rights.” Georgia law states that an individual who occupies a piece of land, but who is not the legal holder of the title, may gain ownership under certain circumstances after 20 years, or under “color of title” after 7 years. Under Georgia law, “Color of title” is evidence that the individual has a legal claim to property, although that claim has a defect. Examples are when the individual claiming ownership has a deed, but the deed is deficient or when two individuals hold deeds to the property simultaneously.

Despite what the statute of limitations is (7 or 20 years), the individual occupying the property usually must truly occupy the property continuously for the specified period of time. One possible exception to this rule is referred to as “Tacking.” The individual must also occupy the land in an open manner (not hidden from the real owner) and the individual must be using the property exclusively. Common scenarios are the use of a pathway between houses that the “squatter” has improved with a brick-paver pathway. If the real titleholder did not contest the use and improvement of this piece of land, because that owner never realized that the property fell within his property line, then the individual who made the improvements and used the pathway could take possession under the law. Another example is if a church allowed a parishioner to occupy a vacant home on church property, free of rent for over 20 years. That individual could file for adverse possession and attempt to take legal possession of the property.

In both these cases, regardless of the statute of limitations, the individuals laying claim to the land would have to have used the land continuously for the specified period. Because the individual occupying the property must do so without hiding their intention, most landowners do not realize that a problem exists and that the individual is squatting on the land. The issue usually arises when it is time to sell the property and the title is being checked. Unfortunately by this time, it is possible that the 7 or 20-year statute of limitations has run out and the land could be transferred to the squatter legally. For this reason it is imperative that boundary lines are checked when any property is purchased. Also, for vacant land, it is important to have the property checked periodically to move off any squatters. A qualified Atlanta, Georgia Real Estate lawyer can work to provide protection from these types of situations.

Our Georgia property title attorneys represent individuals, families, and corporations involved in title disputes and real estate litigation. Please call our Main Office at (404) 467-8611 or toll free at 1-877-412-3267, to discuss your legal issues and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. Our main office is conveniently located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia, near the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell Roads.

Our Law Firm also has a Marietta, Georgia Office. You can reach on of our Marietta property litigation lawyers by calling (770) 952-1008, or toll free at 1-877-412-3267. Many of our Marietta and Cobb County clientele prefer meeting one of our Marietta Lawyers, who resides in Marietta. This is especially true if the property issues are located in the Cobb County. You can also send us a message through our confidential Web Site form.