A claimant seeking to acquire property by adverse possession must pay the annual assessed property taxes. This requirement was mentioned in an earlier 2019 blog. The following is a further examination into the specifics of the property-tax requirement.
The general rule is that the possessor must pay all taxes that are validly levied and assessed on the property during the statutory five-year period. (See CCP § 325(b).) This includes payment of all the state, county, or municipal taxes assessed against the property. (See id.)
Furthermore, within the five-year period, the possessor must timely pay the property taxes during each year that the taxes are levied and assessed. (See id.) Although what constitutes as being “timely” is not explained or defined in CCP § 325(b), a recent case held that a lump-sum payment for any delinquent years will not be considered “timely.” (McLear-Gary v. Scott (2018), 25 Cal. App. 5th 145, 156.) This follows the intention of the state Legislature of preventing the dishonest claimant from claiming open, notorious, continuous, and adverse possession for the required period by simply making a lump-sum payment to cover the preceding five years. This, however, is not to be mistaken for the requirement that the adverse possessor must still redeem all delinquent taxes that existed prior to haven taken possession. (City of Los Angeles v. Coffey, (1966) 243 Cal. App. 2d 121, 125.)
Thus, to adversely possess property, the adverse claimant must both pay off all delinquent property taxes, if any, and timely pay all the property taxes during the required five-year period.
In addition to the above, the adverse claimant must prove timely payment of the required property taxes by certified records from the county tax collector. (CCP §325(b).) Whether CCP § 325(b) requires a claimant to pay the property taxes by the due date or before the delinquency date remains uncertain.
Nevertheless, once a claimant has timely paid the required property taxes during each of the five years, and has met all the other requirements discussed in our prior blogs, then the claimant’s title to the property by adverse possession will be preserved even if the claimant subsequently fails to pay the property taxes on time. (Meier v. Meier (1945) 71 Cal. App. 2d 502, 507.)
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See related: Adverse Possession: An Overview