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West Virginia Adverse Possession Laws

Land ownership has always been central to the American dream and to Mountaineer State identity. As it turns out, owning land can be a little bit more complicated than we imagine. One such complication is known as “adverse possession,” where a person who continually trespasses on property can gain legal title to that property if they can meet certain other conditions.

For property owners, losing your land can sound pretty scary, so how exactly do adverse possession laws work? Here is a quick introduction to adverse possession laws in West Virginia.

Adverse Possession Laws in General

While the concept of "adverse possession" is news to most laypeople, it’s actually a fairly old legal doctrine designed to encourage large landowners to make beneficial use of their property. Most adverse possession laws require a trespasser to openly inhabit and improve a property, or a small part, for a determined amount of time before he or she may gain legal title to the property. This time limit in West Virginia is at least 10 years before ownership could change hands.

Adverse Possession in West Virginia

West Virginia’s adverse possession statutes are highlighted below.

Code Section

West Virginia Code 55-2-1, et seq.: Entry Upon or Recovery of Lands

Time Period Required for Occupation

10 yrs.-

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

After disability lifted: 5 yrs.



Payment of Taxes


Title from Tax Assessor


The minimum time of occupation isn’t the only legal hurdle to property ownership. A legitimate claim for adverse possession must have four 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.

More Resources for West Virginia Adverse Possession Laws

State property laws, and concepts like adverse possession, can be confusing. FindLaw’s section on Adverse Possession can provide you with additional articles and resources on this topic. You can also consult with a West Virginia real estate attorney if you would like legal help regarding a real estate or adverse possession issue.

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