Adverse possession in Singapore

In Ng Tsorng Chinn v Vijaykumar Nanalal Shah ([2012] SGHC 55) N’s predecessor as owner of plot A had enclosed the neighbouring plot B by fencing it in. Thenceforth, the only access to plot B was via plot A. N now claimed to be entitled to be treated as the owner of plot B by virtue of an unbroken chain of adverse possession of plot B by himself and his predecessors. The claim succeeded. The fact that the conveyance of plot A included limited rights to drain into a septic tank on plot B did not amount to permission for a more extensive occupation (thus the possession was not the result of a licence). Fencing the land in so that it could only be accessed via plot A was both possession and evidence of an intention to possess (even if there were no other ‘active’ adverse possession). In this regard, the court cited (at 17 – 18) with approval the English explanation of intention to possess in Megarry and Wade (7th ed) and Gray and Gray (5th ed); there is no need for an intention to dispossess or to acquire an estate in land but only an intention to stay for as long as one can. There was no need, either, for each squatter in the chain to convey to the next whatever rights it had or was in the course of acquiring in plot B. The court relied on the reasoning in Site Developments (Ferndown) Ltd v Cuthbury Ltd in this regard. The doctrine of adverse possession has been abolished in Singapore but the title to plot B had been extinguished before that abolition and the squatter’s rights had been properly protected after that.

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