Adverse possession: requirements of acknowledgement of superior title

Section 23 of the Limitation Ordinance provides that an acknowledgement of a superior title starts time running again for the purposes of adverse possession. Section 24 sets out the formalities to be observed: the acknowledgement must be in writing;  signed by the person making it (who may be an agent of the squatter); and be made to the person with the superior title or that person’s agent.

In Lambeth LBC v Archangel ((2001) 33 HLR 44, CA (Eng)) A had entered Lambeth’s property in 1985 and ran a charity there. Lambeth brought possession proceedings in 1999 and A relied on his adverse possession as a defence. In 1993, A had negotiated with Lambeth for the grant of a licence but no licence was ever granted. During the course of the negotiations A wrote to one of Lambeth’s employees giving details of the charity’s work and plans. This letter didn’t refer to the property nor to any negotiations about a licence. It was held that it was a sufficient acknowledgement. A admitted that the property referred to generically in the letter included the disputed property. Lambeth’s employee had sufficient authority to receive the acknowledgement. Although the charity was a separate legal entity, the letter was signed by A.

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