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  1. #1

    Default How Can a Title Owner Stop an Adverse Possession Claim

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: California

    Adjacent to my property in San Francisco are two undeveloped lots. These lots are land-locked and can't be developed upon. (They are on a street that was never developed and instead became a public stairway).

    The owner of this land is an elderly widow who didn't know the land was still hers. After she learned that the land couldn't be developed, she "simply walked away" and stopped paying property taxes -- over 20 years ago. Although the properties are in default, she is still the owner on record. When she found out the land is still her's, she said she adamantly wants to donate it to the city's Parks and Recreation department to be protected as open space.

    More recently (8 months ago) a real estate developer paid off all the back taxes and installed a fence that blocks the public from entering the property. He bluntly confirms that he's trying to acquire the land through adverse possession.

    My questions are... what can be done to prevent this developer from acquiring the land? And how can I help the current owner do this?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    You can help her retain an attorney. What he has done however does NOT sound like something that can lead to adverse possession (at least not for a long time to come). What needs to be determined is rather than he just "paying the arrears" whether he actually purchased rights via a tax deed auction.

  3. #3

    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Thanks for the quick response. Indeed the process has only recently begun. The developer paid the taxes and installed the fence last September, which started the clock on his attempt to claim the land. In California I understand that he needs to maintain his "claim" on the land for 5 years. The developer told me he plans to plant some trees and do other landscaping on the otherwise undeveloped land as a way to claim occupation.

    Is a Tax Deed auction the same thing as a defaulted properties auction? The land had been scheduled for auction this spring, along with other defaulted properties in San Francisco, but since the tax bill had been paid by the developer, it was removed from the auction.

    The issue with the owner is that she's elderly and on a fixed income who may not be financially capable of hiring legal help. I don't have any financial interest in the land, but I would like to help her settle the issue sooner rather than later. She's also concerned about any liability should anything happen to someone on the land, since it is legally hers.

    Would it help if the owner hires someone to remove the fence installed by the developer and then puts up her own "no trespassing" signs. Or can she give me written legal permission to use her land, perhaps by planting a garden or installing a bench, thus disrupting the efforts of the developer.

    Ultimately if we need to hire a lawyer, we'll figure out a way to pay for him/her, but I'm hoping there are things I can do on my own.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Would it help if the owner hires someone to remove the fence installed by the developer and then puts up her own "no trespassing" signs. Or can she give me written legal permission to use her land, perhaps by planting a garden or installing a bench, thus disrupting the efforts of the developer.

    yes and yes.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Let's start with the taxes. Right now all the developer has done is give your friend a nice gift in paying her property taxes. The property is no longer in tax-default and was removed from the auction list. No tax deed is going to result. The taxes have to be paid each of the 5 years during the SOL on the adverse possession claim.

    If the developer put the fence up last September, then he also has to pay the taxes for another 4 years. He also must meet the other requirements for adverse possession for these remaining 4 years: hostile, actual, open and notorious, exclusive and continuous.

    It is hostile because the developer knows that the land is not his. If he were a neighbor, it could be by accident.

    It is also actual since he erected the fence and now has some presence on the property.

    It is open and notorious because it is obvious to all that see the fence including the real property owner.

    It has not yet been exclusive and continuous without interruption.

    These are all simply stated to just get to the point.

    If your friend gives the developer permission to use the property for any use such as planting trees or growing a gardening, he will be barred from obtaining the land. And I would doubt that he would continue his efforts at that point. Permission could be given in a letter sent CRR.

    "Dear Mr. X, Thank you for paying my property tax and for erecting a fence on my property. You may use the land to plant trees and grow vegetables." And that she reserves the right to revoke that permission at any time.

    If your friend wants to donate the land to the City, she should speak with the proper authorities in the city. She would not need to hire a lawyer. She could give you a power of attorney if she wants to and you could do it all for her.

  6. #6

    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    lulz.
    Brilliant.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Quote Quoting Thomas Scott
    View Post

    Ultimately if we need to hire a lawyer, we'll figure out a way to pay for him/her, but I'm hoping there are things I can do on my own.
    You can't practice law without a law degree and a license.

    So there's no ultimately about it.

    And there's no WE here either.

    She needs a lawyer NOW.

    Relying on an amateur who gets his knowledge from strangers on the internet is the best way for her to get screwed out of her property, if it isn't already too late.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    Let's start with the taxes. Right now all the developer has done is give your friend a nice gift in paying her property taxes. The property is no longer in tax-default and was removed from the auction list. No tax deed is going to result. The taxes have to be paid each of the 5 years during the SOL on the adverse possession claim.
    .
    and if I recall, the taxes must be paid in an on time manner as well.


    another thing the OP's friend can do:

    What the OP can do to prevent the claimants actions is to make sure she pays the taxes before he has a chance to.


    If your friend gives the developer permission to use the property for any use such as planting trees or growing a gardening, he will be barred from obtaining the land. And I would doubt that he would continue his efforts at that point. Permission could be given in a letter sent CRR.
    the problem with such an action would be if he uses it for something he was not granted permission for. I would suggest not being too specific in granting permissions.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Ohio
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    2,592

    Default Re: How to Stop a Real Estate Developer from Taking Land from Elderly Widow

    Let's not try this in the court of expertlaw.com

    Land is so valuable in San Francisco that this whole point is going to be moot without the OP hiring a local attorney.

    Let's agree with adjusterjack and remand this to an SF attorney.

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