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Howard v. Kunto

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellants, V. Waldemar Kunto and Garnet Kunto (Appellants), appeal from a decree quieting title in the Respondents, Joseph C. Howard and Madeline L. Howard and William J. Yearly and Elizabeth H. Yearly (Respondents) after issue of description in deeds not conforming to land the deed holders occupied.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To constitute adverse possession, there must be actual possession that is uninterrupted, open and notorious, hostile and exclusive and under a claim of right made in good faith for the statutory period. Summer possession can constitute continuous possession if such possession is similar to the conduct of surrounding owners. Tacking of adverse possession is permitted if the successive occupants are in privity, if there is a reasonable connection between the predecessors and the successive occupants.

    Facts. The Appellants had a deed to land that described a 50-foot wide parcel on the shore of Hood Canal. The error before the court is the 50-foot parcel of land occupied by the Appellants is not the parcel of land described in the deed, rather, the Appellants’ house stood on one lot and his deed described the adjacent lot. This error in the deed likely occurred over twenty years prior, with the Appellants predecessors to the land. The Respondents, whose deed stated they owned the land upon which Appellants’ house stood, commenced an action to quiet title. The trial court denied the Appellants’ claim of adverse possession, stating they failed show continuity of possession or estate to permit tacking of adverse possession from the predecessors. The trial court also found the Appellants’ possession not to be continuous as it only included summer possession.

    Issue.
    Is a claim of adverse possession defeated because the physical use of the premises is restricted to summer occupancy?
    May a person who received record title to tract A under the mistaken belief that he has title to Tract B (immediately contiguous to Tract A) and who subsequently occupies Tract B, for the purpose of establishing title to Tract B by adverse possession, use the periods of possession of tract B by his immediate predecessors.

    Held.
    No, summer occupancy only of a summer beach house does not destroy the continuity of possession required by adverse possession. The occupancy of tract B during the summer months for more than the 10-year period by the Appellant and his predecessors, together with the continued existence of the improvements on the land and beach area, constituted uninterrupted possession.
    Yes, successive purchasers who receive record title to tract A under the mistaken belief that they were acquiring tract B, immediately contiguous thereto, and where possession of tract B is transferred and occupied in a continuous manner for more than 10 years by successive occupants, have established sufficient privity of estate to permit taking and thus establish adverse possession.

    Discussion. Title to real property can be established by adverse possession. To establish adverse possession, the possessor of the land must show possession that is open and notorious, exclusive, continuous and hostile for a statutory period of time. If the possessor of the land can establish adverse possession he gains title to the land and cannot be ousted from the land. If a person who is trying to seek adverse possession can show privity, a personal connection with previous owners in the transfer of the land, tacking is permitted to show possession of the land for the statutory required time.


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