Adverse possession: what is the limitation period when time began to run before 1 July 1991?

Section 7 of the Limitation Ordinance provides that the limitation period (other than for land owned by the Government) is twelve years.

Section 38A of the Limitation Ordinance provides, in effect, that the former twenty year limitation period applies where a period of adverse possession began before 1 July 1991 but had not expired by then.

In Tang Moon Lam v Tang Ying Yeung ([2019] HKCA 1102) the defendant was in adverse possession of the plaintiff’s land from 1990 to the end of 2007. The defendant argued that section 38A could be interpreted to mean that a squatter’s adverse possession claim could succeed where it could establish a twelve year period of adverse possession beginning on or after 1 July 1991 even if the period of adverse possession began before then.

The Court of Appeal rejected this argument. The adverse possession period is twenty years for all claims where the period of adverse possession began before 1 July 1991.

Michael Lower

 

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