Adverse Possession: The Pictures That Prove

In case you needed it, I have yet another reason to keep those old pictures of family picnics: adverse possession.


Most broadly defined, adverse possession, is a method of acquiring title to real property without compensation by possession for a statutory period of time under certain conditions. Black’s Law Dictionary.

In Connecticut, to acquire title to land by adverse possession a claimant must oust an owner of possession and keep such owner out without interruption for 15 years by an open visible and exclusive possession under a claim of right with the intent to use the property as his own without the consent of the owner.

Click here  for a great summary of Connecticut Adverse Possession law.

Usually, adverse possession cases involve boundary disputes. While it may seem harsh,  that our courts will allow neigbors to take each others’ land without compensatio, the law of adverse possession is rooted in a practical need for certainty in land disputes. It provides our courts with very clear rules as to how to determine who the rightful owner of property is and to allow property that has been abandoned or neglected to be used again.

Recently, a Connecticut Superior Court awarded title to a strip of land on Columbia Lake to a party who proved that she had met the elements for a claim of adverse possession. Carter v. Yampanis,  2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 176 (Vacchelli, J.).

The plaintiff, Ms. Carter,  proved her case for adverse possession in part through the use of old family photos and video showing the Carter family using the disputed area for “picnicking, baseball games, and storage of boats and trailers” since 1963.  

The Carter case is proof positive that home videos and photos can be worth more than a thousand words.