We ran across this issue as we were trying to sell a property where the owner lived overseas outside the Antelope Valley area. We were attempting to drive by the property and we found an illegal dwelling and a man with a gun defending the property. Now this doesn’t occur everyday, but in parts of the Antelope Valley surrounding the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, Ca. there is a lot of vacant land with little access or only a dirt road. Now the squatter was on the property but had taken physical possession. He appeared to have been living on the property for some time and making a home of his own, but didn’t complete all the factors of adversely possessing the property. You can acquire a property by adverse possession including a house or vacant land in California, but the action will take at least five years.
The process to make a claim of adverse possession in California by a claimant (the party seeking to gain title to the property) they must successfully demonstrate the following. 1. Possession under a claim of right or color of title, which means ownership of property by a person in possession, without being regular( so not the documented registered owner), Color of title is where the claimed owner has some piece of paper claiming to transfer title to him or herself. This can be done writing a document saying you are the owner. 2. Actual, open, notorious occupation (protected by a substantial enclosure such as a fence, barrier or wall and usually cultivated or improved. 3. Claimant is adverse and in hostile possession. 4. Continuous possession for a period of five years. 5. Payment of all taxes assessed against the property during the five-year period. Most people think you just have to pay the taxes, but in order to fully take the property and defend it in court then you need to have all of the above.
It could be easier to acquire this type of property at a tax sale then doing all of the above unless it is a house where the time and value is more in your favor. Adverse possession of tens or hundreds of acres of land could be more difficult to fence if you are challenged in court. You may have to do more research to find out what is open and notorious in adverse possession of vacant land. We have ran across potential properties that can be taken by adverse possession as the property owner has given up and no longer intends to pay the property taxes, so the other parts of adverse possession can be undertaken.