General Requirements For Adverse Possession In Nevada
Many recall the story a few years ago of a Texas man claiming he obtained a $300,000 house for $16 (the amount charged for county filing fees) by taking advantage of state adverse possession laws. It sounded too good to be true, and it was, as the bank subsequently evicted the man for trespassing. Had the bank not evicted him, could he have legally obtained the property for $16? Perhaps in Texas, but not under Nevada’s adverse possession laws.
What is Adverse Possession?
Adverse possession is a principle of property law whereby a person may obtain title to property by satisfying certain legal requirements. Generally, adverse possession may be established in Nevada by continually occupying another’s property and paying taxes on that property for 5 years. N.R.S. 11.150. Adverse possession requires that possession of the property is, for lack of a better term, adverse. This means the actual owner has not granted permission to use the property. Rather, the occupying person must act as the true owner in all respects. Because a true owner would pay taxes on the property, Nevada law requires the occupying person to pay taxes for five years. In the case Brundy v. Bramlet, the Nevada Supreme Court interpreted the law requiring payment of taxes to include water assessments on the property.
The Brundy case involved two adjoining parcels of land, one owned by Christy Bramlet, the other owned by Elmer Bramlet. Elmer sold both parcels, which were eventually purchased by David and Sally Brundy. The Brundys paid property taxes on both parcels for 5 years, yet Ms. Bramlet paid the water assessments on her parcel. When the Brundys attempted to sell both parcels, Ms. Bramlet objected on the grounds that water assessment are a form of taxes, which the Brundys did not pay for the required 5 years. The Court agreed, holding that water assessments are a form of taxes. Because Ms. Bramlet paid the water assessments rather than the Brundys, she was able to regain ownership of her parcel.
The Brundy case illustrates that the provisions governing adverse possession are strictly construed – all forms of taxes must be paid by the party claiming adverse possession, even if all other elements of the law are followed. The same is true of recent claims for title by adverse possession of Las Vegas homes that have sat vacant for 5 years. It is not enough that a person has occupied a vacant home for 5 years. Unless the would-be adverse possessors paid all taxes and assessments on the property too, their claims for title will fail.