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Property Owners – Don’t Lose Your Title Deeds!

housesTitle deeds to property often lie mouldering and forgotten for many years, but the consequences of losing them can be severe. In a case that stands as a warning to the untidy, misplaced documents left a businessman facing an alleged squatter’s challenge to his ownership of a house.

The squatter claimed that he had occupied the property for more than 12 years without the businessman’s consent and had thus acquired title to it by adverse possession – commonly known as squatters’ rights. In the absence of title deeds and conveyancing documents, he also questioned the businessman’s assertion that he was the freeholder of the property.

The lost documents meant that, in countering the latter argument, the businessman had to rely on extraneous evidence, some of which dated back to the 1940s and 1950s, including an antique rates book and historic planning consents. A judge found that he had established a paper trail sufficient to prove his legal ownership.

In also rejecting the squatter’s adverse possession claim, the judge found that he had been in occupation of the house for fewer than 12 years. He had entered the property pursuant to an oral tenancy agreement with the businessman and had paid rent for several years. The facts of the case emerged as the High Court dismissed the alleged squatter’s appeal against the judge’s decision.



 
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