The Elements of Adverse Possession in North Carolina

by de Ondarza Simmons, PLLC on July 13, 2011

adverse possession in North Carolina

Adverse Possession or Just Trespassing?

A person (including a business entity) can acquire title to property not just through a deed or under a will, but also through adverse possession.

Adverse possession means possessing another’s property under certain conditions for a certain period of time. As a result, two things happen. The title of the original owner of record is extinguished, and a new title is created by law in the adverse possessor.

Adverse Possession or just Criminal Trespass in North Carolina?

The law of adverse possession, of course, varies from state to state.  In North Carolina, for example, the prescribed period of time the property must be possessed is generally 20 years, but could be as little as 7 years under certain circumstances.

In the meantime, however, in North Carolina the adverse possessor is effectively a trespasser, and could face

  • ejection from the property by the Sheriff
  • civil money damages and/or
  • criminal prosecution.

Initial Legal Strategy Session to Discuss Your Adverse Possession Matter

So, whether you are the potential adverse possessor or the original owner, it is critical that you consult an adverse possession lawyer to evaluate your particular situation. To sign up for a Legal Strategy Session with Ms. de Ondarza Simmons, you should click here.

Elements of Adverse Possession

In North Carolina, to acquire title by adverse possession, possession must be:

  • actual
  • hostile
  • exclusive
  • open and notorious
  • continuous and uninterrupted
  • for the prescribed time
  • under claim or right or color of title for the period required by the statute and
  • under known and visible lines and boundaries.

Why You Will Need Legal Advice

These elements can be unusual and difficult to understand for a lay person or even a lawyer or a law student who is unfamiliar with this practice area. Many of the elements have exceptions or wrinkles. Sorting through them and applying them to the particular circumstances of a given case requires the expertise of a North Carolina adverse possession attorney.  To learn about making an appointment for a Legal Strategy Session to discuss your adverse possession matter with Ms. de Ondarza Simmons personally, you should click here.

Our Outline of Adverse Possession in North Carolina

In the meantime, however, you may want to download our free Outline of Adverse Possession in North Carolina.  It is no substitute for legal advice about your case and how the ancient and complicated doctrine of adverse possession might apply in your situation. Instead, it is meant as starting point for explaining some of the terms and the basic rules of adverse possession so that you and your North Carolina adverse possession attorney can have a productive initial discussion about your case.

Download our Outline of Adverse Possession in North Carolina

To download our Outline of Adverse  Possession in North Carolina, just fill out the form below. When you do, you will automatically get an email from us with a link to the outline.

While you are here, you may also want to sign up for our North Carolina Real Estate Law newsletter. We publish it from time to time as a service to our existing and potential clients as a way of keeping them up to date on key changes to and information about real estate law here in North Carolina. To sign up, just check the box in the form below.

Get our Outline of Adverse Possession in NC

North Carolina Real Estate Law newsletter.

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Schedule Your Initial Legal Strategy Session with Ms. de Ondarza Simmons

You may have an adverse possession or trespass matter right now.  If so, you can learn about making an appointment for a Legal Strategy Session to discuss your adverse possession matter with Ms. de Ondarza Simmons personally. To do so, you should click here.



North Carolina Business and Real Estate Trial Attorney Inez de Ondarza SimmonsMs. de Ondarza Simmons is frequently consulted by property owners and their attorneys on adverse possession matters in North Carolina.  She practices in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina as a business and real estate trial attorney. She is admitted to practice before the North Carolina State Courts as well as the United States District Court for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt February 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for the clear & concise information.


Jim October 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thank you for clearing up some concerns of mine, and for providing clear direction. I do feel your site was most helpful.


de Ondarza Simmons, PLLC October 14, 2013 at 11:13 am


Thanks very much for your comment.

We hope our Adverse Possession information as well as our posts on other Real Estate Disputes, such as Eminent Domain and Breach of Commercial Lease, as well as our posts on Business Litigation in North Carolina provide a good starting point for our potential clients.

Of course, to make sure to protect your real estate and business interests here in North Carolina, you really need to seek the legal advice of a North Carolina Business or Real Estate Litigation Attorney, such as Ms. de Ondarza Simmons.

If you are facing a real estate or business litigation problem now, we would encourage you to sign up for a Legal Strategy Session with Ms. de Ondarza Simmons. To schedule your Legal Strategy Session or just to learn more about it, you should click here.

Thank you again for your kind comment.


The Team at
de Ondarza Simmons, PLLC

P.S. If you haven’t done so already, we would encourage you to download our North Carolina Adverse Possession Outline and, while you are at it, to check the box to sign up for our
North Carolina Real Estate Law Newsletter. You can do both here.

P.P.S. To see what our business litigation and real estate dispute Clients are saying, you should click here.


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