Partition where squatter acquires title to part of land of paper owner

In Fan Kiu v Li Kwai Wan ([2020] HKCFI 130) F acquired title by adverse possession to land. The land in question was part of the land covered by three separate formal titles. F sought partition of the land in respect of which she had defeated the rights of the formal owners and a declaration that she was the sole owner of the relevant parts. She wanted to be registered as the sole owner of the land to which she had acquired title.

Deputy Judge William Wong SC held that she and the formal owners were co-owners for the purposes of the Partition Ordinance. A squatter of part of the land covered by a paper title could be seen as a co-owner with the formal owner who retained ownership of the rest of the land covered by the paper title. This was so even in respect of those parts of her land where the formal owner was a tso ([47]).

Partition would be beneficial to the development of the land. It would help F to get the consents she needed to demolish her existing dilapidated house on the land and build a new house. This was consistent with one of the purposes that the law of adverse possession is designed to achieve (encouraging the development and improvement of land) ([65]). The formal owners could not be contacted despite extensive efforts to do so.

Even without partition, F was entitled to a declaration to the effect that she was the sole owner of the land covered by her successful adverse possession claim ([59]).

F was granted the orders for partition and the declarations that she sought.

Michael Lower

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