Historically, the productive use of land has been essential to the growth of the economy. Prior to 1970, most great fortunes were related to the ownership of land that was used to build railroads, grow crops, mine minerals, drill for oil, build housing, create manufacturing plants, etc. Because of the importance of land, and the simple fact that you cannot make more of it, public policy favors the productive use of land. Consequently, property laws are written with the intention to avoid wasting land.
The law of adverse possession (pg. 495 in your textbook) is meant to avoid having real property go to waste due to absentee or irresponsible landowners. It is important to note that this area of law is meant to punish bad landowners, not to reward trespassers. The rule is fairly simple – if a person openly occupies property continuously without the permission of the owner, after a certain period of time, the trespasser becomes the legal owner of the property. That period of time is 15 years in Michigan.
For example, Bob moves into an abandoned house in Midland. He parks in the driveway, puts his name on the mailbox, mows the lawn, etc., acting the same way an actual owner who lived in the property would act. John, the actual owner, never visits the property and is unaware that Bob is living there. After 15 years, Bob can claim legal ownership of the property due to adverse possession. John will no longer own the property. However, if John finds out that Bob has been living there for 14 years and 300 days, John still owns the property and can file a claim to have Bob evicted.
Please read the decision in Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom for an example of an adverse possession case. (Note: the decision has been edited for length and there is a diagram of the property at the end of the decision that you may want to look at before reading it.)
Do you think that adverse possession law is a reasonable restriction on property owner rights? If so, how long should a person have to live in the house before they can bring an adverse possession claim? (State laws range from 5 to 20 years.) If you lived in the neighborhood where Bob tried to adversely claim a house as described in the example above, how would you feel about it?
Please post your response to these questions as well as any other comments you would like to add. In addition to your post, please comment on at least two of your classmates’ posts.