The legal concepts of ownership

I will begin by identifying the specific legal issues involved in this question. This question involves the legal concepts of ownership, possession and title. Firstly, in 1983 RB Ltd. became the registered owners of this land with the intention of developing it for the building of offices. Due to financial difficulties the land was not developed resulting in Henry Associates taking advantage of the vandalism, which left the property without a gate, and using the land as a car park in 1985. The result was that this land became a major asset to Henry Associates.

In 1989 RB Ltd sent a letter to Henry Associates to vacate their land. The land was sold by Henry Associates with their offices and bought by Baden Dentists who placed the reason for buying the offices on the availability of the adjacent land. Baden Dentists were told the land was abandoned. Now, in December 2000, RB Ltd. sent a letter to Baden Dentists asking them to leave their land, as they were the owners. Now I will apply these legal concepts so as to achieve a result. RB Ltd. purchased the land in 1983 and had permission by October of that same year to develop the land for the construction of an office block.

However, due to vandalism the gate to this land was knocked and Henry Associates, in 1985, began to use the land as a car park for employees and clients. In May 1989 RB Ltd. became aware of that the vandalism had occurred and sent a letter to Henry Associates to vacate the land. Obviously still ownership belongs to RB Ltd. as a registered title, guaranteed by the state1. The question now arises is there adverse possession. Firstly I will establish the significance of the letter sent by RB Ltd. in 1989 to Henry Associates. In Mount Carmel Investments Ltd. v Peter Thurlow Ltd.(1989)

Court held that it was "not enough merely to demand S to leave the land". In BP Properties Ltd. v Buckler (1987)3 the Court points out that a Court Order must be obtained and enforced, for S to vacate the land. The letter from RB Ltd. therefore is of no legal importance. So is there adverse possession by Henry Associates? The requirements for adverse possession must at first be present. For adverse possession to begin there must be at first either discontinuance or dispossession. Discontinuance is where the landowner abandons the land, which is not the case here, as RB Ltd.

is just not using the land temporarily. Dispossession is where the owner of the land is denied access to his/her own land. Henry Associates must have possession; animus possidendi (intention to possess) and the possession must be adverse. So do they have animus possidendi? Sufficient intention is important and this is best demonstrated by dispossession. In Powell v Mc Farlane (1977)4 Slade J said "… intention [must be] clear to the world". In Seddon v Smith (1877)5 the Court held that the putting up of a fence was the "strongest possible evidence" to indicate intention.

However, the grazing of animals on the land and other clear actions are also acceptable for intention. If there is possession then is it adverse? This means the person who is in possession of the land must be inconsistent with the name on the registrar. Henry Associates use the land as their car park and have not erected a fence or anything to show they possess the land. According to Buckinghamshire County Council v Moran (1990)6 there must be intention to possess to the exclusion of O. However Henry Associates don't wish to exclude anybody.

As a result Henry Associates are keeping the possession secret and not open to the world and there is no dispossession as RB Ltd. can access the land whenever they want too. Now I will try to establish if there would have been adverse possession, although this cannot be as there is not the sufficient intention. In Tecbild Ltd. v Chamberlain (1969)7 it was held that the using of the land as a car park or allowing children to play on the land regularly did not amount to possession. So Henry Associates don't have possession.

Also in Wallis (1975)8 the Court held there would be no dispossession if S had not altered the land, which would prevent O's development. Therefore Henry Associates had mere trespass as they do not have the animus possidendi or the dispossession. Now I will move on to the purchase of this land with Henry Associates office by Baden Dentists in 1994. First it should be said that if there had been adverse possession by Henry Associates this land could have been sold on to Baden Dentists and the time that Henry Associates had possession could be transferred between both owners without loss of time9.

However, as Henry Associates did not have adverse possession I now must investigate whether Baden Dentists fulfil the requirements for adverse possession. Even at this stage in 1994 there is no discontinuance as RB Ltd. still intend to develop the land and made this known in 1989. They bought Henry Associates offices primarily because of the adjacent land and this was a misrepresentation made to them by Henry Associates because they believed this land had been abandoned in the past. They do possess the land and have fenced it off10.

However, after the purchase, Baden Dentists believed they are the true owners of this land as they thought it had been abandoned. In Williams v Usherwood (1981)11 the Court held that when S thinks they own the land that there is no difficulty in establishing animus possidendi, as they will want to exclude everyone and not keep it as a secret12. Is the possession adverse? There is adverse possession because the person who has possession is a different name to that on the registered ownership title.