How is it Legal to Take Possession of Abandoned Land in Texas?
Owning a house in Longview, Texas is one thing, owning a piece of land is another. There's just something about having that plot of grass and trees that let's you know you are living the American dream. Land can be plentiful when out in a rural area like where my parents live in Lindale. The land they live on has been in my family for a couple of generations and I will continue that when they go to meet God in Heaven. But what if I was deeded the land and did nothing with it? Could someone lay claim to it and take it as their own? Let's look at the laws in Texas around this below.
The Legalities of Land Possession
We all would love a piece of property. Doesn't matter if it's out in the countryside or in the concrete jungle of a city, owning a piece of land is a dream of many. But could you come across a piece of property that isn't taken care of, has no home on it or doesn't look like it's used for livestock and just take it over as your own? In Texas, you technically can and it's legal to do so. However, there is A Lot you must do over the course of several years, or even a couple of decades, to make that land officially yours on a deed or in land records.
What You Need to Do, It's A LOT
In Texas, it's called Adverse Possession and there is a lot you have to do to be successful in the process:
- Gather all legal documents associated with the property - This increases your chances of proving the current land owner has abandoned the property.
- Build a fence around the property - It can't be barbed wire or some kind of decorative fence, it would need to be a fence that wouldn't let anyone else onto the property or even be able to see the property from the road.
- Pay the property taxes on the land - Even if the owner is paying the taxes, you can do this but it WILL NOT guarantee you can take possession of the land.
- Make improvements to the property - This could include building a house or even as simple as planting a garden.
- Obtain a "color of title" for the property - You would need a real estate lawyer for this as the wording would need to be exactly right to be valid.
- Know how long you have to possess the land - Depending on what you do with the land or how things are filed, it can take anywhere from 3 to 25 years to complete the process.
- Hire a real estate lawyer - They will know all the legal in and outs to properly take possession of the land.
- Serve the land owner - You must be able to obtain the address of the land owner to properly serve them court papers.
- Draft "trespass to try title" - This is basically a petition to file in court showing what you have done to lay claim to the land.
- File your petition with the proper county clerk's office - If this is done wrong, you'll have to start all over wasting possibly years of time.
- Have photo evidence of your adverse possession - This just gives you a better foundation in court at your attempt to possess the land.
- Make sure you are in court - You need to be in court to prove in person to the judge everything you have done to possess the land. Otherwise, the judge can throw it all out and everything you've done is wasted.
Not Easy But Can Be Done
Wow, that's a lot. It is. And to be frank, you, the person trying to possess the land, has a very small chance of winning. Everything has to be done perfectly and by the book for the land possessor to win. The whole process can take from 3 years to 25 years to complete. You would need to really put in the work if you wanted to take possession of a piece of abandoned property. But if done correctly, and you are patient, it can be done.
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