Church Property – Part 2

Church Law and Tax 1990-05-01 Recent Developments Church Property Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Church Law and Tax 1990-05-01 Recent Developments

Church Property

Churches may obtain ownership of property through “adverse possession.” That was the conclusion of the Alabama Supreme Court in a recent decision. A property owner executed a deed transferring a tract of property to his son in 1958. This deed was not recorded until 1985. In 1960, the original owner conveyed the same property to a church, which promptly recorded its deed and used the property openly and without interruption until the original owner’s son claimed title to the property in 1986. The church rejected the son’s claim of ownership, and a lawsuit ensued. The court ruled that the church owned the property through “adverse possession.” It observed that “to obtain title by adverse possession, a claimant must prove possession of the land, openness, notoriety and exclusiveness of possession under claim of right … and continuity for the statutory period of ten years. These elements must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.” The court concluded that the church satisfied this definition since it “has been in actual, open, notorious, hostile, continuous, and exclusive possession of the disputed property for over 39 years.” Pogue v. White Stone Baptist Church, 554 So.2d 981 (Ala. 1989).

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