Illegal possession of the property is when the real landlord of a property loses the ownership rights due to inaction on his/her part to dismiss an encroacher within a proper time from the property. If the statutory limitation period for eviction lapses, the real owner gets prohibited from starting any judicial proceeding to get his/her property back and the trespasser acquires the ownership antagonistically.

The prescribed period of limitation for possession of real estate or any interest within is 12 years for private property and 30 years in the case of state or public property, as per the Section 65 of Limitation Act, 1963. This rule applies from the day the trespasser illegally possesses any asset of the real owner. But, in some cases, the limitation period is suspended. It remains unaccounted for the calculation of the statutory period. For example when there is an unfinished trial between the claimer and the landlord over property or where the owner is mentally ill or a child or where the owner is in the defense services.

How do people acquire Illegal Ownership of Property:-

  • Antagonistic Possession: When the trespasser occupies a property for the entire statutory period of limitation knowingly that he/she does not have any lawful right to seize that property. The sole intention of the trespasser is to acquire the title to the land by hostile possession upon the actual owner.
  • Real Possession: When a claimant possesses construction of a house or some structure or erection of shed, fencing of property, grazes cattle in the land, farms and harvest crops in the land, plants or cuts trees, etc. Such an activity carried out by someone for the entire period of statutory period of limitation, accounts to real possession of property illegally.

After the legal term of limitation expires, there cannot be any cause of action, and the illegal possessor acquires the right, title and interest of the original owner(s) of the property. He/she becomes entitled to deal with the said property in the way he/ she likes or desires.

How one can protect property from Illegal Ownership:

  • The owner must maintain documents related to property such as title deed, sale agreement, water bills, municipal taxes, etc.
  • He/she should ensure time to time inspection of the property or ask someone he/she trusts to do on his/her behalf.
  • Before giving POA (Power of Attorney) to someone he/she should make sure the person is trustworthy. Also, he/she should ensure to give Special POA and have a copy of such document.
  • If the owner has inherited the property, he/she should make public notification in the newspaper and keep its copy.
  • The owner should construct a boundary wall around the vacant plot and put up a notice board stating the ownership. This helps to protect from encroachment and illegal sale of property.
  • Before renting the property, the owner should do a proper verification of the tenant and register the tenant’s information with the police.

A sound tenancy agreement should be formulated with the provision of termination or renewal of the agreement