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Protecting your real estate from squatters and adverse possession

One interesting law that you may not be aware of is an adverse possession law. If you're living in South Carolina, it's important for you to understand this law to protect your property rights.

With adverse possession, it's possible for people to encroach on your land and then, by default, own it when you don't stop them. It takes ten years for the law to kick in, but it's important to still be aware of what's going on around you.

With an adverse possession law, it's possible for someone to take ownership of an abandoned or even possessed property by using the property for 10 years. For example, if your neighbor begins using a pathway along the side of your house and then paves it, he or she is starting to act as if the land is his or hers. If you don't dispute the border of your land or come up with a contract for land use before 10 years is up, then your neighbor may find he or she has been able to take possession of your property by using it him- or herself.

This same kind of law can help people get a home simply by possessing one that has been abandoned. If the person cares for it and lives in the home as if it's theirs for 10 years, then the courts may determine that the home is their property and give them a title (if they don't already have one). At that point, the property is possessed by the new resident, and any old ownership will be null and void. There are some cases where the ownership of property can be argued, but courts work through these on a case-by-case basis.

Source: FindLaw, "South Carolina Adverse Possession Laws," accessed Dec. 10, 2015

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