Massachusetts law about adverse possession

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on adverse possession law (sometimes called "squatter's rights").

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.7C, § 32 No right by adverse possession to land held by commonwealth

MGL c.185, § 53 No title to registered land through adverse possession


20 years

MGL c.260 § 21 Recovery of land claimed by adverse possession after 20 years

MGL c.260 § 22 Time spent by a predecessor counts

MGL c.260 § 28 Open possession to retain possession

MGL c.260 § 29 Barring remainders and reversions

MGL c.260 § 30 Effect of death of tenant

MGL c.260 § 31 Actions by commonwealth

Selected case law

1148 Davol Street LLC v. Mechanic's Mill One LLC, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 748 (2014)
A cause of action for adverse possession against a private party can begin to accrue during prior public ownership of the land. "Nothing in the statutory language [of MGL c.260, s.31] immunizes such lands [privately owned lands that had previously been publicly owned] from having an adverse possession claim begin to accrue during the period of public ownership."

Cook v. Babcock, 65 Mass. 206 (1853) 
"A party…must show an actual, open, exclusive, and adverse possession of the land. All these elements are essential to be proved, and the failure to establish any one of them is fatal to the validity of the claim."

Holmes v. Johnson, 324 Mass. 450 (1949)
"Acquisition of title through adverse possession is a fact . . . to be proved by the one asserting the title. The burden of proof extends to all of the  necessary elements of such possession . . . ."

Ryan v. Stavros, 348 Mass. 251 (1964)

Title by adverse possession can be acquired only by proof of nonpermissive use which is actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and adverse for twenty years.

Web sources

Adverse possession, by Gary F. Casaly
Discussion of elements of and defenses to adverse possession.

Adverse possession basics, Konstantine Kyros
Basics and theories behind this doctrine

Mass. real estate law blog
Includes tips to prevent adverse possession

When comprehensive prescriptive easements overlap adverse possession by Will Saxe, 33 B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev. 175 (2006) 
Part I of the article provides an analysis of the required elements of adverse possession and a review of its origins in English law.

Lawrence v. Concord: the doctrine of adverse possession restored and acquisition of title to government property, by Erin R. Boisvert, MBA Section Review, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2004).
Analysis of a case involving municipal property

Print sources

Crocker's notes on common forms, MCLE 2006 with supplement, Chapter 26

Real estate law with forms, Mass. practice v.28-28B, Thomson West, 2018-2019, Chapter 27

Massachusetts Superior Court civil practice jury instructions, MCLE, loose-leaf. Chapter 17, Real Estate

Neighboring property owners, Shepard's McGraw-Hill, 1988 with supplement Chapter 6

A practical guide to disputes between adjoining landowners-easements, v. 1, Matthew Bender, 1989 with supplement Chapter 7



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: April 30, 2019