Boundary Disputes

Adverse Possession in Michigan

In Michigan, a claim for adverse possession is established as follows:

The underlying philosophy of a claim for adverse possession is to encourage land use, as it favors the productive use of land over its disuse. Id. The import of this doctrine, as this Court has recognized, “is against a party who has had rights that have not been asserted for an extended period of time to the detriment of another.” McGee v Eriksen, 51 Mich App 551, 559, 215 NW2d 571 (1974).

Accordingly, Michigan law has sanctioned a claim that permits the otherwise unlawful taking of property initially owned rightfully by another. MCL 600.5801. In order to establish a claim of adverse possession, a plaintiff must provide “clear and cogent proof that possession has been actual, visible, open, notorious, exclusive, continuous, and uninterrupted for the statutory period of fifteen years.” Kipka v Fountain, 198 Mich App 435, 439, 499 NW2d 363 (1993). The 15-year period begins when the rightful owner has been disseised of the land. MCL 600.5829. “Disseisin occurs when the true owner is deprived of possession or displaced by someone exercising the powers and privileges of ownership.” Kipka, supra at 439, 499 NW2d 363. In addition, a plaintiff must also show that the plaintiff’s actions were “hostile” and “under claim of right,” meaning that the use is “inconsistent with the right of the owner, without permission asked or given, and which use would entitle the owner to a cause of action against the intruder.” Wengel v Wengel, 270 Mich App 86, 92-93, 714 NW2d 371 (2006) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

Canjar v Cole, 283 Mich App 723, 731-732, 770 NW2d 449, 454 (2009).

The Michigan statutes pertinent to determining a claim for adverse possession are as follows:

REVISED JUDICATURE ACT OF 1961
Act 236 of 1961

600.5801 Limitation on actions; time periods; defendant claiming title under deed, court-ordered sale, tax deed, or will; other cases.

Sec. 5801.

No person may bring or maintain any action for the recovery or possession of any lands or make any entry upon any lands unless, after the claim or right to make the entry first accrued to himself or to someone through whom he claims, he commences the action or makes the entry within the periods of time prescribed by this section.

(1) When the defendant claims title to the land in question by or through some deed made upon the sale of the premises by an executor, administrator, guardian, or testamentary trustee; or by a sheriff or other proper ministerial officer under the order, judgment, process, or decree of a court or legal tribunal of competent jurisdiction within this state, or by a sheriff upon a mortgage foreclosure sale the period of limitation is 5 years.

(2) When the defendant claims title under some deed made by an officer of this state or of the United States who is authorized to make deeds upon the sale of lands for taxes assessed and levied within this state the period of limitation is 10 years.

(3) When the defendant claims title through a devise in any will, the period of limitation is 15 years after the probate of the will in this state.

(4) In all other cases under this section, the period of limitation is 15 years.
600.5821 Recovery of land or public ground; period of limitations; personal actions; maintenance, care, and treatment of persons in state institutions.

Sec. 5821.

(1) An action for the recovery of any land to which this state is a party is not subject to the periods of limitations, or laches. However, a person who could have asserted claim to title by adverse possession for more than 15 years is entitled to seek any other equitable relief in an action to determine title to the land.

(2) In an action involving the recovery or the possession of land, including a public highway, street, alley, easement, or other public ground, a municipal corporation, political subdivision of this state, or county road commission is not subject to any of the following:

(a) The periods of limitations under this act.

(b) Laches.

(c) A claim for adverse possession, acquiescence for the statutory period, or a prescriptive easement.

(3) The periods of limitations prescribed for personal actions apply equally to personal actions brought in the name of the people of this state, in the name of any officer of this state, or otherwise for the benefit of this state, subject to the exceptions contained in subsection (4).

(4) Actions brought in the name of this state, the people of this state, or any political subdivision of this state, or in the name of any officer or otherwise for the benefit of this state or a political subdivision of this state for the recovery of the cost of maintenance, care, and treatment of persons in hospitals, homes, schools, and other state institutions are not subject to the statute of limitations and may be brought at any time without limitation, notwithstanding any contrary provisions of a statute.