Adverse possession and reasonable belief (England’s Land Registration Act 2002)

In IAM Group plc v Chowdrey ([2012] EWCA Civ 505, CA (Eng)) IAM was the registered proprietor of 26 Rye Lane and C was the registered proprietor of 26A which was physically connected to 26. C had had exclusive possession of part of 26 since 1990. He had used these rooms as storage for his business and the only means of access to them was through his property. IAM brought possession proceedings in August 2010. C’s defence relied on adverse possession pursuant to sections 98(1)(a) and (b) of the Land Registration Act 2002 and he applied to be registered as proprietor with title absolute.

IAM argued that C did not reasonably believe that the disputed property belonged to him as required by Schedule 6, para. 5(4)(c). First, the filed plan at the Land Registry showed the true boundaries of the property very clearly and C’s solicitors knowledge of this could be imputed to C. Second, IAM’s solicitors had written to C’s solicitors in 2009 telling him that he had no interest in the property.

IAM failed. First, it was a question of C’s knowledge and belief and there could be no imputing of his solicitor’s knowledge to him ([27]). Second, (applying Zarb v Parry) C was not obliged to take IAM’s solicitors claims at face value and was entitled to dispute them ([29]).

Etherton LJ said:

‘The question in each case is what, in all the circumstances, is the proper conclusion as to the reasonableness or otherwise of the continued belief as to ownership by the adverse possessor.’ ([30])

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