Adverse possession is a way of acquiring title to real property through continuous possession or use for a specified period of time. One of the elements required to prove adverse possession is that the possession or use must be “hostile to the owner’s title.” This does not mean that there must be a dispute between the parties, but that the claimant’s possession is without recognition of any rights of the true owner. It also requires the use be adverse, not with the owner’s possession. A key problem is whether the owner of the property knew or should have known of the use. In a recent decision which concerned a deeded easement the supposedly adverse use had not changed through the succession of owners, and had not interfered with the owner’s use of the property. The court found that the use was not legally “hostile” to allow the adverse claim. This case is unusual because the adverse possessor had fenced out the other party, which is nearly always sufficient to establish an element of the claim.
In Vieira Enterprises, Inc. v. John McCoy, the parties were owners of adjacent commercial properties. Vieira operated a mobile home park. The common boundary between the parcels was the centerline of Rosedale Avenue, and each owner had a 20 foot easement over the neighbor’s half of the road. However, at some time a 140-foot-long section of Rosedale Avenue had been fenced in by wire fences to the west of the private road, as well as by a wire gate across the road at the mobile home park’s northern boundary. Thus McCoy would appear to have been fenced out of his 20’ width of road plus the 20’ easement on the remainder of the road.
The problem arose when McCoy notified his neighbors that he was ready to begin a construction projection that would involve removal of the apparent boundary fences and the gate and his regular use of his right of way on Vieira’s property. The City of Capitola issued McCoy a zoning permit that stated conditions for his new building, including that “Rosedale Avenue shall be open to vehicular access for the proposed project and Cabrillo Estates Mobile Home Park at all times.