Hostile Possession

Definition - What does Hostile Possession mean?

Hostile possession is when a person who is not the owner of a piece of property holds, possesses, or controls that property. In order to assert control of the property, the hostile possessor may do things such as build fences, put their name on entrances to the property, build other structures, etc. Hostile possession can be a first step on a path to the transfer of ownership through adverse possession. This can happen if the hostile possessor can maintain control of the property for a long enough time.

Justipedia explains Hostile Possession

Hostile possession can occur in situations such as if there is dispute about ownership of a piece of property, or if the owner has neglected the property for a very long time, etc. For example, say there is an abandoned property at the edge of a town that has a mid size house on it. If no one has come or gone on the property in decades, a person may seek hostile possession of the property.

In this example, the person may start working on the property, build a fence around it, and even brand his or her last name at the entrance or elsewhere. If the owner of the property does nothing about this and doesn't complain to law enforcement for a certain number of years, the hostile possessor could actually earn the right to the title of the property through adverse possession. Hostile possession and adverse possession timelines vary on a state by state basis.

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