Adverse Possession. Can you claim someone else’s property in Wisconsin?

Adverse possession is a concept where a person can actually gain legal title over someone else’s land. Wisconsin courts have continued to enforce this notion. The idea behind adverse possession if that if you spend enough time caring for someone else’s real property, that they don’t care about or perhaps have even forgotten, and the owner makes no objection to you caring for the property, then a Wisconsin court may say that you have obtained legal title to that property. But how does this happen?

Think: OCEAN

Adverse possession must be:






Let’s visit what this means.

Open and Notorious: The trespasser must be using the property openly, as if they were the owner, and not hiding or using it secretly.

Continuous: The use or possession must be continuous for a statutory period. In Wisconsin, this is generally twenty (20) years.

Exclusive: One must be using the property exclusively and in the possession of the trespasser alone.

Adverse: The use of the property must be against the right of the true owner. You can’t adversely take something they gave you permission to use!

However, the time period is a little different if the trespasser has “color of title,” meaning they by some means believed they actually were the rightful owner. This, coupled with the trespasser paying all real estate taxes for seven (7) years, can give the trespasser title.

But, what if you are the landowner and want to stop someone from adversely taking your land? Your first step is to tell the trespasser that they are intruding on your land, to take everything off your land they may have brought on, and to refraining from coming onto your property. This puts them on notice. If this continues, come talk to us at Petit & Dommershausen to bring an action to quiet title. This is an action where a court formally declares it is you, and not the trespasser, who is the true owner of the property.

Finally, it is important to know that this does not apply to the government. Sorry, you cannot hide out in a state park for twenty (20) years and claim it as your own.

If you need help or have any questions about your property, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond du Lac counties.