Today there is yet another installment in the story about the individual who claims he is the rightful owner of a piece of land by the Salt River in Tempe. He claims that his family has occupied the land since territorial days. I have no idea if that claim is true or not. I will, however, take as true this statement in the story that appeared on azcentral.com today: the individual making the claim “could provide no records of ownership.” I’m also going to assume the truth of this statement in that story: the land was “given by the federal government to the territory of Arizona in 1863, ordered to be held in trust and auctioned off to provide money for public education.” In other words, it is state trust land. Finally, I’m going to take as a fact the statement that the city of Tempe bought half of the property in what sounds like it was a 3-way deal among the state, the city, and the railroad.
Without knowing anything else about it, I think I can pretty confidently say that with those facts, the case is over, and the individual loses. Why? Because (1) he can’t prove that he ever had title, and (2) the doctrine of adverse possession doesn’t operate against the state or a city (which is a political subdivision of the state).
The newspaper reporter tries to paint a sympathetic portrait of the individual who is claiming the land. For all I know, maybe the individual deserves sympathy. Legally, however, I’m pretty sure that he is wrong, and the courts have reached the correct result.
If you’re interested (which might require that you be a student of real estate law, as I am), you can read more about the subject of adverse possession in two newsletters in my archive, one from April, 2003, and the other from July, 2005.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.