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Utah Adverse Possession Laws

Most of us think that land we bought and paid for will be ours forever. Although they are rare, there are some instances where a continual trespasser can gain legal title to property if they can meet certain additional conditions. This legal concept is known as “adverse possession,” and this can sound pretty scary for people who own a large parcel of land or a smaller piece they don’t visit very often.

So how do adverse possession laws work in the Beehive State? This is an introduction to adverse possession laws in Utah.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

While new to most laypeople, the idea of "adverse possession" is a fairly old legal doctrine intended to encourage landowners to make beneficial use of their land or keep a close eye on it if they aren’t using it. Adverse possession laws allow a trespasser to gain legal title to property if he or she openly inhabits and improves a property, or even a small part, for a determined amount of time. Utah law requires an individual to occupy property for at least seven years before the possibility of ownership changing hands.

Adverse Possession in Utah

The table below lists Utah’s adverse possession statutes.

Code Section

Utah Code 78B-2-208, et seq.: Adverse Possession

Time Period Required for Occupation

7 yrs. and Color of Title/Payment of Taxes: 7 yrs.

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



Cultivation only: 7 yrs.

Payment of Taxes


Title from Tax Assessor


The good news for landowners is the minimum time of occupation isn’t the only legal hurdle for adverse possession. There are four elements to any legitimate claim for adverse possession:

  • 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 Utah Adverse Possession Laws

State real estate laws, especially those covering concepts like adverse possession, can be confusing. If you would like legal assistance regarding a real estate or adverse possession issue, you can also consult with a Utah real estate attorney. You can also find additional articles and information by visiting in FindLaw’s section on Adverse Possession.

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