What Is the Process for Adverse Possession in Michigan?

by Andrine Redsteer ; Updated July 27, 2017

Michigan's Compiled Laws and Michigan case law governs the elements for adverse possession throughout the state. Adverse possession, known colloquially as "squatter's rights" is the process by which an individual possesses another's land for a specified period of time. Once the period of time is satisfied, a claim to title may be asserted.

Rozmarek v Plamondon was a case decided by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1984. In Rozmarek, the Michigan Supreme Court opined that adverse possession involves satisfying specific elements and a 15-year statute of limitations. To support a claim of adverse possession, a claimant must have possessed the property of another in an actual, hostile, visible, open, notorious and exclusive manner. If all elements are met and the 15-year statute of limitations is satisfied, a claimant can assert a claim and receive title by bringing an action to quiet title.

Actual, Open and Notorious

Actual means the adverse possessor must be in actual possession of another's property. It is not enough to merely trespass on another's land; possession must be more than temporary. Actual occupation also means that a possessor cannot just claim the land is his; rather, he must actually occupy it. Open occupation means that possession cannot be in secret; possession must be open and visible to the true owner. Notorious possession involves certain acts that tell others the adverse possessor has occupied another's land, such as clearing a field or constructing a fence.

Exclusive and Hostile

An adverse possessor must occupy another's land exclusively. In other words, he cannot share occupation with the owner. To claim adverse possession, an individual must occupy another's land in a hostile manner. Hostile possession means that a possessor occupies the owner's land in a manner that is adverse to the true owner's interests. Hostile occupancy is required throughout the entire statutory period.

Statute of Limitations

In Michigan, the statute of limitations to assert a claim of adverse possession is 15 years. If all the above elements are present for a period of 15 years, a claimant can then bring an action for quiet title. An action for quiet title settles any disputes as to whom title to the land belongs. In property law, it is possible to add the amount of years set out by the statute of limitations by "tacking" periods of successive possession by successive adverse possessors.

About the Author

Andrine Redsteer's writing on tribal gaming has been published in "The Guardian" and she continues to write about reservation economic development. Redsteer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Washington, a Master of Arts in Native American studies from Montana State University and a Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law.