A title to real property may be acquired by long continued occupation of an adverse character.
One may acquire title to real estate by a possession adverse to that of the owner.
Also under some statutes an adverse title may be acquired without possession where it is under color of title, and the lands are of unimproved character.
The common law period of limitation was twenty years. But by statute shorter periods may avail under specified circumstances.
To acquire title by adverse possession at common law there had to be (1) actual possession (2) of an adverse character (3) continuously and (4) for twenty years. This is also generally the law today.
But statutes have provided shorter periods of adverse acquisition where there are other elements present, such as possession and payment of taxes for, say, seven years, or possession for seven years under color of title. The law of each state will manifestly have to be consulted on these additions to the common law of adverse claim.
The possession to be adverse must be an actual possession which need not consist in residence upon the property but must be of some use which would notify the world at large that this person is in possession of the property.
The possession required must be a possession which is not merely constructive but actual. This does not mean, however, that the person claiming the land must live upon it, for if he fences it or farms it or in any way uses it constantly so that the public would be apprized that he was in possession, this would be considered adverse, provided it is really of an adverse character, that is, under a claim of right.
Parties who claim in adverse possession may make out the period of limitation by tacking the possession of several together provided their possessions were continuous and their claims in privity.
It is not required that the same person remain for twenty years in adverse possession but his purchasers and heirs or devisees may complete the adverse possession by continuing to hold it adversely. There can be no tacking of the interests of parties where they hold without privity of title. In the cases we have just mentioned there would be privity of title, but suppose that A holds for ten years and then abandons the possession and B takes it up and continues it for ten years more. Here B could not claim title by reason of A's prior ten years possession, for the holdings cannot be tacked together, being of an independent character.