Posted by Bob (Md) on February 22, 2002 at 13:33:02:
Depends on the state. In Maryland, for instance, you have to make “open and conspicuous” use of the property for twenty years. If the owner shows up, they can legally kick you off in the 11th month of the 19th year. And, they can try to collect for back rent/usage fees. They might be sucessful, even though there is no contract in place between you and them. Also, you cannot adversely possess any piece of land belonging to a government agency or church organization. As an example, I’m conspicuously mowing and maintaining a quarter-acre piece of land that abuts my property. I’ve been doing it for 8 years. Another 12 years, it could be mine! I also know about the church thing because of a group that renovated an abandoned church and held regular meetings in it for decades. The original denomination still owns it, and always will (and no, they didn’t want to sell a valuable “improved” piece of church property).
Your state probably has very, very different laws. Consult an attorney before doing anything. Not only could it be a waste of time, but you might end up owing the “real” owner (or their heirs and/or assigns) for fair use rental of the property!