Updated on July 4, 2021
If you own unoccupied property – whether it be vacant land, an empty single family residence, or commercial space – there is always the possibility, and risk, of adverse possession by a third-party. Admittedly, adverse possession in California is rare, but a vigilant property owner should always do what they can to prevent adverse possession. Luckily, California law allows for an easy method to monitor your properties for adverse possession.
Under California law, a party claiming adverse possession must timely pay all taxes assessed against the property being adversely possessed. Code Civ. Proc., § 325, “Timely paid all state, county, or municipal taxes that have been levied and assessed upon the land.” The courts have taken this requirement one step farther and required that the party claiming adverse possession must pay the property taxes before the party holding legal title to the property. Commercial Nat. Bank of Ogden v. Schlitz (1907) 6 Cal.App. 174, 184, “Where the true owner pays the tax upon an assessment to himself before the adverse claimant pays the second or double tax he has caused to be assessed to himself, the latter cannot claim compliance with the statute.”
However, the rule regarding “who paid first” only applies when the party claiming adverse possession is not on the tax rolls for the property. In a particularly devious move, the California Legislature encourages the efficient use of property – through adverse possession – by allowing a party claiming adverse possession to be placed on the tax roll for a property. Rev. & Tax. Code, § 610, “His or her declaration, under penalty of perjury, that he or she currently has possession of the property and intends to be assessed for the property in order to perfect a claim in adverse possession.” If a party claiming adverse possession is placed on the tax roll using Rev. & Tax. Code, § 610, it does not matter “who paid first.” Pereira Farms Corp. v. Simas (1924) 69 Cal.App. 159, 163, “Having had the land assessed to him, and having paid the taxes levied thereon, we think he has fulfilled the conditions of the statute, and it is immaterial as to the number of times the land may have been assessed to and the taxes paid by other parties.”
Thus, if you are a property owner seeking to prevent a claim of adverse possession against your property, it is essential that you closely monitor your property tax records for payments by unknown parties, promptly make your property tax payments, and regularly contact the County Recorder office to determine if other parties are being assessed for the property.
If you are having an adverse possession dispute, contact our real estate lawyers in California at Schorr Law to schedule a consult and see how we could help you. Text: (310) 706-2265 | Call: (310) 954-1877 | Email: [email protected] | Use our contact form.