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Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom

    Brief Fact Summary. During the statutory period, a couple lived on a piece of land and treated it as their own. Title was actually held by another party.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When one party possesses another’s property in a way that is exclusive, continuous, and without permission for a statutorily set period of time, title transfers to the adverse possessor and the owner will be barred from bringing an action of ejectment against the possessor.

    Facts. The family of Charles Fagerstrom originally entered the disputed property around the mid 1940s. After Charles married in 1963, he and his wife intended to build a cabin on the north end of the property. Over the years, they moved more of their property and made improvements to the land. They were present on the property every other weekend and a few times a week. They cleaned the property, and others believed they owned it.

    Issue. Can a person have adverse possession of property if they did not construct significant structures on it and was only present on the property seasonally?

    Held. Yes. Judgment remanded.
    In order to establish title by adverse possession, it must be proved that the use of the land was continuous, open and notorious, exclusive, and hostile to the true owner.
    The quality and quantity of acts required for adverse possession depend on the character of the land, so a person claiming adverse possession does not have to make significant improvements or occupy the land year-round in order to make a claim. The land must be used during the statutory period in the way an average owner of similar property would use it. When the land in question is rural, a lesser exercise of dominion and control may be reasonable.
    The use was notorious because if the landowner had checked on the land, he would have noticed that someone was using his property.
    The use was hostile because the possessors acted as if they owned the land without asking permission for its use.
    However, the Fagerstroms did not use the southerly portion of the land in a way that would provide notice to the owner of their dominion and control, so they did not obtain adverse possession of that property.

    Discussion. When the requirements of adverse possession are met, a trespasser is transformed into the owner, and the original owner will not be able to eject the adverse possessor.


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