In the recent case of Swan Housing Association Ltd v Gill 2012, the High Court held that the court has no general jurisdiction to hear an adverse possession claim in relation to registered land and this type of claim should be heard by the Land Registry Adjudicator.
Under the Limitation Act 1980 squatters are able to acquire title to unregistered land by proving they have been in adverse possession of that land for at least 12 years. Claims by and against squatters under this regime are heard by the courts. However, the Land Registration Act 2002 introduced a new statutory scheme for acquiring adverse possession of registered land.
Swan Housing Association Ltd v Gill highlights the importance of following the statutory procedures prescribed by the 2002 Act.
The facts of the case were that Swan Housing Association was the registered proprietor of a flat which was sub-let to the defendant, Gill. Swan commenced proceedings for an anti-social behaviour injunction against Gill as he had obstructed access over a passageway adjacent to his flat and trespassed on the garden of another property (by erecting a greenhouse and a gazebo).
Gill submitted an application to the Land Registry for adverse possession over the part of the property Swan said he was trespassing over and sought an adjournment of the trial on the basis he was claiming title to the relevant land. The judge in the first instance adjourned the matter on different grounds. Gill therefore appealed seeking an order that the trial be adjourned to await the outcome of his adverse possession application to the Land Registry.
The High Court upheld Gill’s appeal. The court found the statutory scheme for adverse possession claims in relation to registered land meant the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the adverse possession claim. The court could not discharge functions which statute attributed to the Land Registry. Once the Land Registry had made their decision the court could then deal with the application for the injunction.
The result of this case is not surprising however it highlights that it is important to follow the 2002 Act if applicable to your claim.