Adverse possession applications

Information about the process for making applications for a record of title based on adverse possession under section 155 of the Land Transfer Act 2017.

Section 155 Land Transfer Act 2017 (LTA) allows a person to apply to the Registrar-General of Land (RGL) for a record of title in that person’s name as owner of the freehold estate in land if:

  • a record of title has already been created for the estate or a Crown grant for the land has been registered under the Land Transfer Act 1952; and
  • the person has been in adverse possession of the land for a continuous period of not less than 20 years and continues in adverse possession of the land; and
  • the possession would have entitled the person to apply for a title to the freehold estate in the land if the land were not subject to this Act.

Applications under section 155 may arise in diverse circumstances – for example, where an entire section is being occupied by someone unconnected to the registered owner, or as part of a “boundary adjustment” between two properties. This replaces the previous process under section 3 of the Land Transfer Amendment Act 1963.

Applications cannot be made for (see section 159 LTA):

  • Land owned by the Crown (except where it could have vested as ownerless property (bona vacantia) but has been disclaimed in terms of section 170)
  • Māori land
  • Fee simple land owned by a local authority
  • Land held in trust for a public purpose
  • Land occupied by the applicant (where the applicant owns an adjoining property)  because of a mistaken marking of a boundary
  • Land occupied by the applicant because of a change in the position of a river, stream or creek or the isolation of the land from other land by a river, creek, stream, other natural feature or by a road.

Making an application

The Adverse Possession Guideline 2018 – LINZG20778 has been developed to assist with the preparation and processing of these applications.  The guideline contains details of all information required for the applications as set out in the Land Transfer Regulations 2018.

Forms 37 of the Approved Electronic Forms (for registration by e-dealing) or the Approved Paper Forms (for a manual dealing) can be used to make an application. Use of these forms will ensure that all prescribed information is provided. 

This includes such matters as (and evidence to support the same):

  • how the land has been occupied and used over the period of adverse possession claimed in the application
  • any periods of adverse possession by other persons through whom the applicant is claiming title
  • whether the land has been fenced, otherwise enclosed or incorporated with other adjoining land for the exclusive use of the applicant
  • any improvements to the land made by the applicant during the period of adverse possession, and
  • whether the applicant has paid rates or made other payments in connection with the land.

The application must also be accompanied by a surveyor’s certificate confirming the boundaries or a survey plan (see section 156(2)).

The instrument code is AP17.

The instrument may be lodged by e-dealing (image only with certifications, , A&I required) or as a manual dealing (although dispensation will be required for a practitioner who lodges the dealing manually).

Notices and advertising

If an application and the supporting evidence establish a case of entitlement the application can be advertised and notices served on interested parties. A person claiming an estate or interest in the land may lodge a caveat preventing an application from being granted (section 162 LTA). The caveat must be lodged within 60 working days of the date notice was given by the RGL.

The Guideline provides more detail about notice and caveat processes for an application.          

If, after resolving matters relating to any caveats, the application is successful the RGL will cancel the existing title and create a new record of title registered in the name of the applicant.

Section 204 applications

The Adverse Possession Guideline 2018 – LINZG20778 also addresses adverse possession applications made pursuant to section 204 LTA in relation to estates in land for which limited certificates of title have been issued following the bringing of the land under the 1915 or 1952 Land Transfer Acts.

Section 172 applications

Applications to bring Deeds land under the LTA by an adverse occupier addresses Section 172 applications.

Caveats against adverse possession

For information about caveats against adverse possession application see Other caveats under the Land Transfer Act 2017