In our last blog entry on San Antonio adverse possession of real estate , we touched on the conditions of the 3 year and 5 year statute of limitations for an owner to bring an action to recover property held in adverse possession.
Under the ten (10) year statute of limitations, an owner of land must bring suit to recover land held in adverse possession by a party that cultivates, uses, or enjoys the property. This is the most common statute of limitations, since most parties in adverse possession do not hold the land under a title or deed and have not paid any real estate taxes. Without a title, theoretically, a person in adverse possession is entitled to no more than 160 acres.
The final statute of limitations is the twenty-five (25) year limitations period. This is the catch-all limitations period that applies regardless of whether the owner had a disability during the time of adverse possession. An owner who sues for recovery from an adverse possessor may under the law suffer from a disability. Texas real estate law recognizes that an original owner may have a disability such as being a minor (under 18), having an unsound mind, or serving in the military during a time of war. The time of disability is not included in a limitations period. Texas law however essentially cuts off an owner’s right to sue for recovery of land held in adverse possession regardless of disability if 25 years passes after the adverse possessor first occupies the property.
In our last entry, we discussed the gentleman who inherited what he believed to be a large vacant lot only to find out that there were “squatters” on the land. There are several options for this gentleman. He can try to file suit for San Antonio forcible entry and detainer which is brought when an owner wants to evict a trespasser. That type of suit is heard by the Texas justice court. From a strategic standpoint, the owner has to realize that the trespasser may claim a right to the property via adverse possession. If the forcible entry and detainer action requires the justice court to establish property title and weigh competing rights to superior possession, then the justice court will lose jurisdiction and the case will be moved to the county court.
The original owner can also sue to recover real estate held by a party via adverse possession. This may be the best bet for the owner, although it is costly and time consuming. If there is a question as to title, the owner can bring a Texas trespass to try title suit to establish a superior title to a piece of property.
In the case of our gentleman, he cannot simply walk onto the land and repossess it. Texas does not condone a self-help repossession of land. The gentleman must utilize legal process, and a San Antonio real estate lawyer can assist you in developing the best legal tools to effectuate possession.