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How Long Is Adverse Possession in Missouri?

Posted on March 15, 2024

Adverse possession, also known as squatter’s rights, is the legal process of acquiring ownership of land in Missouri that belongs to someone else through continuous unauthorized use of the land. In general, the length of time required for adverse possession to result in land ownership is 10 years. However, these laws can be complex and subject to interpretation based on the specific circumstances.

Adverse Possession in Missouri Requires 10 Continuous Years of Occupation

Missouri’s adverse possession law, MO Rev. Stat. § 516.010, states that no action can be maintained for the recovery of land that has been seized or possessed by another individual within 10 years before the commencement of such action. In other words, if the trespasser or squatter has occupied the premises he or she is claiming for at least 10 years, the original owner of the property will not have a claim to recover the land.

For this law to apply, the squatter’s occupation of the property must be continuous for all 10 of the required years. The residence or stay on the premises must not have been interrupted for any amount of time within the statutory period. If the squatter left the land for any period of time, the adverse possession claim would generally not be viewed as valid in the eyes of the Missouri courts.

Continuous Possession Alone Is Not Enough

Ten years of continuous land occupation is not the only element the Missouri courts consider when determining the validity of an adverse possession claim. For a squatter to make a claim, he or she must provide evidence of the following additional requirements:

  • Actual possession: the squatter must be able to prove that he or she has been in actual possession of the land for at least 10 years, meaning not only living on the land but tending to it, maintaining it and exercising control over it. Planting a garden, making repairs and enclosing the area with a fence are all examples of proof of actual possession.
  • Open and notorious occupation: the squatter must have been open about his or her possession and control of the land to lay claim to it. This means the trespasser’s residency must be obvious and known by others – often, including the property owner. Squatters generally cannot claim land after hiding the fact that they are living on it or keeping it a secret.
  • Exclusive occupation: the squatter must have been the sole occupant of the property within the 10-year statutory period. Sharing the occupation with other people for any length of time will invalidate the claim to adverse possession of the land, as the squatter would not be the sole owner.
  • Hostile occupation: the squatter must have occupied the land without the owner’s permission; in other words, he or she must be a trespasser on the property. It does not matter whether the squatter knows who the property actually belongs to or if there has been a good faith mistake regarding ownership, as long as the occupation amounts to trespassing.

These requirements are not established directly in any Missouri statute. Instead, they stem from case precedents set by the courts over decades of making decisions on adverse possession cases. In general, the nature and length of time of the trespasser’s possession must show the courts that the squatter has a valid claim to ownership of the land.

For more information about this topic, contact an adverse possession lawyer in St. Louis at TdD Attorneys at Law for a free consultation.