First, adverse possession (also known as “squatter’s rights”) is a legal principle that applies when a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land (real property)—attempts to claim legal ownership based upon a history of possession or occupation of the land without the permission of its legal owner.
Boiled down, it means you use the land like it is your own land for the required legal period, and the land becomes yours.
But, in Arkansas, it is harder than that…
The statute requires either that the person holds “color of title” to the land, or “color of title” to land next to the parcel and paid the ad valorem taxes on the parcel. Next to in has been held to mean not across a street, but touching the the land you have “color of title” to.
Color of title is a title that appears correct and valid but may be defective. The courts have ruled that deeds are mere color of title; the actual title to land is secured with an irrefutable instrument, like a land patent. When that land is subsequently conveyed to another owner by a deed, the deed colors the title to show the new owner. Thus, the chain of title from the land patent to the present may include many deeds. The actual title remains with the land patent and lawful deeds show the chain of title to the present landowner. Because the ownership in land is a very specific thing, requiring precise and proper transfers of ownership, it used to be that people always required a certified abstract be provided with a deed to ensure the deed was not merely a color of title fiction.
To prove adverse possession in Arkansas under common law, you must fulfill 6 requirements in addition to color of title:
- Actually use the land as it would be used by the rightful owner
- The use is visible and notorious. You can’t hide the fact that you’re using the property and you can’t have the owner’s permission
- The use is exclusive
- It is hostile, That is, you can’t have permission to use the land
- You intend to hold the property adversely to the true owner
- For a period of seven years continuously