How property owners could lose their rights

During the month of June the Legal Corner covered in detail land and real property ownership. Particularly we discussed the different types of property ownership such as freehold estates, non freehold estates, and concurrent estates. This week let’s focus in more detail on what it means to have possession of owned property and ways possession could be challenged by others.

Possession is usually defined as the right or interest an individual has to exercise authority or control over something without interference from all others. In relation to real property, possession allows the owner the right to exclusive possession of his or her land which includes airspace above and the space below the surface within the boundaries of the property. A land owner is not entitled to possess the entire space above his or her land without boundaries and limits, however the land owner has the right to be free from intrusions into that space that would interfere with the reasonable occupation and Quiet Enjoyment. Therefore, a landowner owns as much space above the ground as he or she can possess and use.

Quiet Enjoyment is an agreement that promises the holder of an estate or the possessor of real property that he or she will be able to possess the premises in peace without any disturbance from outsiders. Quiet Enjoyment gives the landowner the right to undisturbed use and enjoyment of his or her property without the intrusion of nuisances, and the right to dismiss or remove others from their property. This right or covenant is also extended or passed down to tenants if the land or estate owner chooses to become a landlord and allow another to actually possess the property. However, adverse possession has sometimes eliminated this right and caused this agreement to be broken.

Adverse possession is a rule that allows an individual that possesses the property of another without their permission the right to obtain title or an interest in the property. An individual must have actual physical possession of the property, the possession must be out in the open an exposed for the public to view, the possession has to be without the permission of the actual owner or hostile, and the possession has to be continuous and uninterrupted for the specific time established by the state in which the property is located. The specific time recognized by the state is also referred to as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations limits the time the true possessor of the property has to recover the property from the adverse possessor or intruder. Once the time has lapsed the adverse possessor has the right to obtain title to the land through the adverse possession doctrine. Landowners should always monitor the possession of their property in order to preserve and protect their rights.

This article does not include all of the detailed requirements and rules related to rights to possession of property. If you have any additional questions about your real property, your interest in the real property, or how to protect your property from adverse possession, please consult an attorney.

Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham and Laurinburg. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit