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Can I lose my Arizona property in an adverse possession claim?

An Arizona property owner may think that when he purchases a piece of property, he owns it until he sells it, and that is typically the case. A property owner who neglects his property, however, may find himself in an uncomfortable position if another claims ownership under adverse possession.

Adverse possession allows a person who is essentially a squatter to take possession of another person's property. It is an "adverse" action, as the person claiming ownership of the land does so against the listed title holder's interest. Under Arizona law, a person must occupy property that is otherwise neglected for at least two years before he or she makes a right of possession adverse possession claim. The person must occupy the property publicly, which includes paying property taxes and acting as if he or she has the right to possess the property. Arizona's two year requirement is short in comparison to many other states.

Arizona also has what is known as a color of title adverse possession claim. Under this claim, a person who believes that he does own the property, generally due to the chain of title, makes a claim of ownership. Sometimes this situation arises if a deed has not been recorded and confusion results over who is the legal owner of the property.

If a person is trying to obtain a landowner's Arizona property by adverse possession, it may be beneficial for the landowner to seek prompt legal counsel. Such cases are ripe for real estate disputes and should be handled with care, as both parties - the original owner and the adverse possessor - may have strong feelings regarding the ownership of the property.

Source: Arizona State Legislature, Arizona Revised Statute Sec. 12-522, accessed July 11, 2015

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