In a case which underlined the importance of high-calibre conveyancing, residents of a 17th century mansion which had been partitioned into smaller dwellings ended up in dispute a generation later over ownership of an attic room which was no bigger than a standard garden shed.
Due to a quirk in the property’s layout which arose from the partition, the room fell within the registered title of one house but was only accessible from the house next door. Both properties had been carved out of the mansion in the 1920s or 1930s and were occupied by families which had lived side by side amicably since the 1950s.
The owner of the second house wished to sell the property and applied to register title to the room. She argued that her deceased father had acquired so-called squatters’ rights over it – more formally known as adverse possession – having used it as of right, without interruption or permission, for many years. The application was, however, resisted by the owners of the first house.
The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) accepted that the room had been used exclusively by the occupiers of the second house since at least 1965. Ruling in favour of the owners of the first house, however, it found that such use had been with their permission, probably since 1972. Adverse possession of the room for the required minimum period of 12 years had thus not been established.