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Aducat v. Township of Voorhees

A-0800-99T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)

ADVERSE POSSESSION; MUNICIPALITIES—Claims for adverse possession against a municipality can not rely upon any period of time before 1991 when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that such claims could be made at all.

In 1960, a property owner conveyed a 50 foot wide strip of land through its parcel to a municipality. The deed was recorded and the municipality accepted the conveyance. In 1997, the municipality was unable to negotiate the right to run an underground sewer line across a portion of the property owner’s property. It decided to run the line through the 50 foot wide strip of land. The property owner then filed a complaint alleging that it had exercised dominion over the parcel for more than 20 years and thus had obtained title to it by adverse possession. Prior to 1991, the law of New Jersey was that an adverse possession claim could not be asserted against a municipality. In 1991, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected that rule and held that adverse possession claims could indeed be asserted against municipalities. That decision was to apply only prospectively. For that reason, the Court decided that the statutory adverse possession period of 20 years could run only from the date of the New Jersey Supreme Court decision in 1991. Thus, at the time the property owner filed the complaint, its adverse possession over the strip of land could only have existed for eight years and fell far short of the applicable 20 year period.

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