Unilateral licence can stop time running for adverse possession

Where a landowner grants a licence to a squatter and the squatter does not reject the licence, the effect is that possession ceases to be adverse: the limitation period stops running.

In B.P. Properties Ltd v Buckler ((1988) 55 P & CR 337, CA (Eng)) adverse possession began in 1955. The landowner obtained a possession order but did not execute it. In 1962, a fresh possession order was obtained but not executed. In 1974, the landowner wrote to the squatter granting her licence to live in the property until her death. She died in 1983 and her son claimed that the landowner’s title had been extinguished by adverse possession. The English Court of Appeal rejected this claim. The effect of the possession orders was that time did not start running until 1962 at the earliest. The landowner had given the squatter a licence to remain and the squatter had neither accepted nor rejected it. The unilateral licence meant that her possession was no longer adverse. It might have been different had she rejected the licence.

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