Adverse possession and human rights

The decision in Beaulane Properties Ltd v Palmer ([2005] EWCA 817) can no longer be regarded as good law in the light of the subsequent judgment of the Grand Chamber in Pye. Nevertheless, the judgment of Nicholas Strauss QC is worth reading for a general consideration of the issues surrounding the compatibility of the law of adverse possession with the right to private property enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. P kept horses on B’s land for more than 12 years and satisfied the requirements of a successful adverse possession defence. Nicholas Strauss QC considered whether section 75 of the Land Registration Act 1925  and the Limitation Act 1980 were compatible with the Convention’s right to private property and found that they were not.

Also of interest in this judgment is the application of the English equivalent of section 26(1)(b) of the Limitation Ordinance. Following a change in ownership of the disputed land P told the new owners that he occupied the land as licensee of the former owner. This was not true, he had no licence. This was a deliberate concealment of a fact relevant to the formal owner’s right of action. The result of this lie by P was to start time running again. Even so, P was able to satisfy the 12 year requirement.

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