Trivial actions and adverse possession

Actions which are trivial in the context of the disputed land do not amount to possession nor are they evidence of an intention to possess.

In Incorporated Owners of San Po Kong Mansion v Shine Empire Ltd ([2007] HKEC 977, CFA) Shine Empire owned undivided shares in a building and had the right to exclusive possession of its roof. The residents of the building used the roof for drying clothes and for installing TV antennae. They had occasional parties on the roof. The Incorporated Owners licensed telecommunications companies to install equipment on the roof and kept the substantial licence fees. They built a management office on the roof. They installed a gate to control access to the roof and kept it locked at night. The Court of Final Appeal rejected the Incorporated Owners’ claim to have acquired title by adverse possession. The acts that had lasted for long enough were too trivial to amount to a dispossession. There was a further question as to whether the actions of individual owners and those of the Incorporated Owners could be aggregated so as to be considered to be the actions of the Incorporated Owners but this was not the decisive issue.

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