If you own a piece of commercial property, you have a right to use that property. Nevertheless, you should be mindful of adverse possession, an old tenet of property law. Recently, a Massachusetts court held that routine lawn care may constitute adverse possession.

What many call squatter’s rights, adverse possession is the notion that someone can gain an ownership interest in property that he or she does not own. To do so, the individual must openly and adversely use the property for the statutory period, which is 20 years in the Bay State.

Adverse possession may not require much

If someone else builds a structure and opens a business on your land, he or she is probably engaging in open and adverse possession of the property. If that possession lasts for two decades, the individual may have legal title to your commercial property.

In Miller v. Abramson, the Massachusetts Appeals Court signaled that adverse possession may not have to be so intrusive. In that case, someone other than the property’s owner mowed the lawn and performed routine yard maintenance. The court determined these actions were sufficiently open and adverse to qualify for adverse possession.

You can protect your ownership rights

You likely have a significant amount of time, money and effort invested in the commercial real estate you own. If someone else has a legal claim to your land, you may not receive the full benefit of your investment. Fortunately, you can likely protect your ownership rights through litigation and other means.

Here are some ways to stop adverse possession before it becomes a problem:

  • Regularly visit and inspect the commercial property you own
  • Post no trespassing signs on your property
  • Offer to lease your property to the attempted adverse possessor
  • Demand occupiers leave your property
  • Maintain your commercial land

If you do not want to lose the title to your commercial parcel, you clearly must protect your ownership rights. Understanding how an adverse possessor may sneak up on you, though, is likely the first step.