Plaintiff claims that shortly after they built their house, they placed sod, and a tree and bushes on a strip of land at the edge of defendant’s property, and then linked the area to their in-ground sprinkler system. Defendant purchased its adjoining property after this had been done. After defendant tore up the strip, plaintiff filed suit, claiming adverse possession. Pending the decision of defendant’s motion to dismiss, the court granted a preliminary injunction against defendant’s further interference with this strip of land.
The first issue before the court was whether the pre-2008 law or post-2008 law applied. The laws of adverse possession were amended in 2008 to require, among other things, that the adverse possessor make substantial and more obvious improvements to the disputed property so that the conduct was more objectively adverse. Acts that are seen as de minimis, such as fences, hedges, shrubs, and even non-structural building, were not acts upon which adverse possession could be claimed post-2008. Lawn maintenance, too, a basis often used to argue adverse possession, is not a sufficiently adverse to support that claim. Under the pre-2008 law, however, this type of conduct could support a claim, depending on the land and its usage. Because these claims accrued before 2008, the court applied the old law.
Turning next to the adverse use, the court dismissed the case, finding that even under the old law planting and mowing grass would not suffice. Even “[a]dding a bush or a young tree does not tip the balance” to find adverse possession. The same for running a hose and “a few sprinkler heads.” These items do not amount to a showing, by clear and convincing evidence, of exclusive, hostile or use under a claim of right.
The technical aspect of an adverse possession claim often tip into gray area—even the possessor’s intent can matter. Detailed considerations must be examined to ascertain whether this kind of claim exists.
1982 East 12th Street Holding, LLC v. Lati