In the recent case of Bliss v. Boston Clear Water Company, LLC (decided April 21, 2020), the Essex Land Court found that the plaintiff, Mary Bliss, had successfully proved a claim to ownership of property on the grounds of adverse possession because her family had been using the property adversely, openly, notoriously, exclusively, and continuously for a period spanning nearly thirty years. The Bliss family's use of the disputed land began in 1985 when Mary's husband, Gerald Bliss, started tending to the grounds of property that was owned at the time by his next-door neighbor. Specifically, the Bliss family paved a portion of the neighboring land, installed a fence around a well, constructed a pitcher's mound and a hockey net, and even went so far as to hire a professional landscaping company to conduct routine maintenance on the land. In addition, the Bliss family parked their cars on the land and allowed their guests to park there, and the family's children played openly on the property.
In the recent decision, McDonald v. Andrade, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a trial court decision, awarding an easement to a Plaintiff who had - in the same lawsuit - obtained the land to which the easement pertained by adverse possession.
Under the doctrine of adverse possession, an individual, business, or group of individuals who have continuously used land owned by someone else for twenty years can make a claim that such use entitles the claimant to ownership of the property. To prevail on a claim of adverse possession, a claimant must prove (1) he or she used the disputed property or portion of a property without permission, (2) that the use was actual, (3) open, (4) notorious, (5) exclusive, and (6) adverse for a period of at least twenty years. Lawrence v. Concord, 439 Mass. 416, 421 (2003).
Good fences make good neighbors. Unless, of course, the fence sits beyond the recorded lot line and the landowner who is now enjoying a somewhat larger piece of property than is reflected on his or her deed claims title to the extra strip of land on his or her side of the fence under the doctrine of adverse possession. In that case, the neighbors (particularly in areas with high land values) often end up in litigation.