Key point 7-18.Churches can lose a portion of their property to a neighboring landowner as a result of “adverse possession,” if the neighbor openly and adversely occupies church property for the length of time prescribed by state law.
An Indiana court ruled that a church lost title by adverse possession to a portion of its property that was openly and continuously used by a neighboring landowner for several years without objection. A church subdivided part of its property as part of a plan to sell a portion of it. A survey was conducted prior to the subdivision of the property. This survey revealed a discrepancy in the property line between the church’s property and the property of a neighboring landowner (the “plaintiffs”). The area in question (the “disputed area”) was a triangular shaped area along the parties’ property lines. The disputed area was confirmed in a subsequent survey.
The plaintiffs’ garage has been partially located in the disputed area since before the plaintiffs purchased the property in 1983. A shed belonging to the plaintiffs is also located in the disputed area. In 1995, the plaintiffs replaced the original fencing and, in 2003, rebuilt their garage. Both the new fencing and the garage were rebuilt in the exact location as the prior fence and garage. The plaintiffs have always taken responsibility for the upkeep of the disputed area and have always used the land in question and mowed it. The plaintiffs have been paying taxes on the disputed area since purchasing their property in 1983.