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Alabama Adverse Possession Laws

Maybe you’ve heard about someone who had a large piece of land out in the country, only to lose some of it to trespassers. Or you’ve seen a segment on the news about squatters taking over a downtown building. Under a legal concept known as “adverse possession,” a person can trespass for so long he or she gains a right of ownership or pass-through.

So how does adverse possession work in the Yellowhammer State, and how what do you need to know about protecting your property? This is an introduction to adverse possession laws in Alabama.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

The idea "adverse possession" is a fairly old legal doctrine and was designed to encourage landowners to make beneficial use of their land and keep an eye on it if and when they weren’t. Trespassers are allowed to gain legal title to property by openly inhabiting and improving the property for a determined amount of time while meeting some other specific conditions. In Alabama, an individual must occupy property for at least 20 years before the possibility of ownership.

Adverse Possession in Alabama

Adverse possession laws in Alabama are highlighted in the table below.

Code Section

Code of Alabama 6-5-200: Adverse Possession

Time Period Required for Occupation

20 yrs. Bradley v. Demos 599 So.2d 1148 and Color of Title: 10 yrs. and Payment of Taxes: 10 yrs.

Time for Landowner to Challenge/Effect of Landowner's Disability




Payment of Taxes

10 yrs. required

Title from Tax Assessor


Before you get too frightened about trespassers taking your land, the time of occupation isn’t the only requirement for adverse possession. In order to have a legitimate adverse possession claim, a trespasser must also prove four additional elements:

  • There must be a “hostile” claim: the trespasser must either
    • make an honest mistake (like relying on an incorrect deed);
    • merely occupy the land (with or without knowledge that it is private property); or
    • be aware of his or her trespassing;
  • There must be actual possession: the trespasser must be physically present on the land, treating it as his or her own;
  • There must be open and notorious possession: the act of trespassing cannot be secret; and
  • There must be exclusive and continuous possession: the trespasser cannot share possession with others, and must be in possession of the land for an uninterrupted period of time.

Related Resources for Alabama Adverse Possession Laws

Real estate laws can be confusing, especially where concepts like adverse possession are involved. You can contact an Alabama real estate attorney if you would like legal assistance with a real estate case or adverse possession matter, or if you want to understand your rights and responsibilities as a landowner. You can also visit FindLaw’s adverse possession section for additional articles and information on this topic.

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