Adverse possession and intention to possess

Where a person in possession signed a Modification of Tenancy proffered by the head landlord (the Government) and does so ‘on behalf of’ the registered land owner this is an acknowledgement that the registered owner is still in possession of the land. This is fatal to an adverse possession claim.

In Yu Kit Chiu v Chan Shek Woo ([2011] HKEC 244, CA) Mr Chan went into possession of land of a Mr Yu in 1962. No lease or licence was granted at that time. In 1970 the District Office sought to regularise the position as regards squatters and illegal structures. This resulted in Mr Chan signing a permit (or modification of tenancy) form. He did so ‘on behalf of’ the registered owner. At first instance, it was held that this was fatal to Mr Chan’s adverse possession claim. The Court of Appeal agreed. Signing in this way was an acknowledgement by Mr Chan that the registered owner was still in possession. The Court of Appeal made the point that this decision does not address the discrepency between English law and Hong Kong law concerning the expression of a hypothetical willingness to pay rent or a licence fee if one had been demanded.

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