Can my tenant claim squatter rights?


My father has been renting land for 14 years from a neighbor of ours. There is no written lease in place and the farmer pays my father in cash once a year.

I fear this man may claim squatter rights to my father’s land now, or later when he dies. My father is over 90 and really trusts this man. He thinks he’ll “rock the boat” if he asks her to sign a lease?

What would you advise?

Dear reader,

These types of leases are not unusual, although they are becoming less common. Your father has a verbal lease with the tenant, and I note that the tenant makes cash payments to your father each year. First, I’ll answer your question about claiming a squatter’s rights.

Usufruct, as it is known in legal terms (otherwise known as squatter’s rights), allows a third party to claim a right to land which is registered in the name of another person on the grounds that he occupied the land continuously for more than 12 years. years with the intention of excluding all others, including the true owner.

If the plaintiff is successful, he is entitled to be the registered owner of the land in question. The previous owner is evicted and the claimant acquires title.

It is not sufficient to allege that a person occupies the property for the required number of years. All conditions must be met. These types of requests or claims are very difficult and the burden is very high.

One cannot be a squatter and a tenant. Both are exclusive of each other. The fact that the tenant pays rent to your father is an acknowledgment of your father’s title and ownership of the land.

However, since there is no written lease in place and the payments are made to your father in cash, from what you have told me, this means that there is no written record of the existence of a lease.

It would be advisable to have a written lease in place that spells out the obligations of both parties and provides useful legal protection. Additionally, leasing is particularly attractive to landowners as there are great tax incentives for landowners to enter into a rental agreement. This is the main reason why oral leases are less common these days.

A lease is a written legal agreement between the landowner and the tenant. In addition to providing a paper trail and payment details, you can also set up additional terms and conditions.

For example, clauses could be inserted that the farmer would insure the land and indemnify your father against any claims or liabilities arising out of his use of the property, that he could not sublet the land without the written consent of your father, that he does not have the right to automatically renew the lease, that he puts the grassland back at the end of the term, etc.

Clauses could also be inserted with respect to the termination of the lease by either party if either party wishes to terminate the lease. When a person rents a property they may be granted certain rights under landlord and tenant legislation, these rights include the right to re-lease. It is important that your father gets legal advice.

It is also important that your father seek tax advice from an accountant or tax advisor regarding long-term leasing, as this may have tax consequences if he wishes to transfer the farm to a child while he is alive.

Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a practicing solicitor at Walsh & Partners Solicitors, 17 South Mall, Cork, and 88 Main Street, Midleton, Co Cork, and also the author of ‘Farming and the Law’. Walsh & Partners also specializes in personal injury claims, transfer of property, estates and family law.

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  • While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, Karen Walsh accepts no responsibility for errors or omissions, however caused. Readers should seek legal advice regarding their particular situation as soon as possible.

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