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Introduction

The Old Law Section 15(1) of the Limitation Act 1980 states that no action shall be brought by any person to recover any land after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the right of action accrued to him or if it accrued to some person through whom he claims that person. Until October 2003, the principle for adverse possession was that a squatter had to treat the squatted land as his own continuously for 12 years, to be able to claim it by way of adverse possession. What amounted to the necessary acts which would demonstrate that a squatter had treated the land as his own was the subject of numerous cases. However, Pye v Graham and the legislative changes brought in by the Land Registration Act 2002 in 2003 shifted from the old system. The House of Lords in Pye v Graham had criticised the law surrounding adverse possession, noting that it did not take into account the fact that most land in England and Wales is registered with the Land Registry. Justifications for Adverse Possession The concept of adverse possession has always been controversial. However, one of its justifications is that it enables defective titles to be cured and contributes to the security of conveyancing. The fact that possessory titles may exist reduces the reliability of the register of title which led the Law Commission and Land Registry to propose radical changes. (Thompson) Even though according to Martin Dixon, the reform on adverse possession was unjustified and unnecessary. Historically the doctrines that justified adverse possession are to protect against stale claims and avoid landowners from sleeping on their rights, to keep land marketable, ensuring that where, for example, the landowner has disappeared and cannot be traced the land remains in commerce and is not rendered sterile, to prevent hardship in cases of mistake and to facilitate conveyancing (Gray & Gray). Also, property lawyers argued in favouring adverse possession on the basis of morality and economic efficiency. The New Law A joint report by the Law Commission and the Land Registry in 1998 have brought upon reform to prevent adverse occupiers from successfully securing title where land owners had failed to engage in adequate supervision of their property. This has been strengthened by the media criticisms of cases involving local government. Section 96 of the Land Registration Act 2002, the periods of limitation under the Limitation Act 1980 do not apply to registered land. A new procedure is set out in schedule 6 of section 97 of the Land Registration Act 2002. The moral view of the new law holds the view on advertent squatters that the fact that urban squatters who are able to acquire land on the expiry of the limitation period is unfair. This raises two philosophical and jurisprudential issues. Firstly, acquisition of land acquisition of title through adverse possession is incompatible with title registration and secondly, squatters act immorally by trespassing on other peoples land. The ultimate stance of the Law Commission is to dismiss lightly the notion that squatting should be supported or tolerated.

Analysis of the New Law The Law Commissions concern was to protect land owners with registered title to be able to rely on their registration for the protection of their ownership except in limited circumstances. The Law Commission acknowledged that certain squatters right should prevail over the registered owner, however, the emphasis was on those squatters whose intention is to wrongly possess land which in criminal law amounts to appropriation in theft. Furthermore, noting the principle of limitation on intending to bar claimants from sleeping on their rights, the Commission points out that sometimes landowners realise that there are squatters present when it is too late, which is as a result of the inadvertence of the landowner. The moral implication of this is, landowners who fail to adequately supervise their properties, lose their land. Neil Cobb and Lorna Fox states that the Commission failed to address academic literature on this principle and instead took a common sense approach to the issue of certainty of title. The new regime failed to realise that squatting is constituent of a broader framework where there are other extrinsic factors such as rising house prices, empty properties and so on which are balanced by squatters possessing unsupervised properties. Cobb and Fox discuss Lockes labour-desert theory in this context which is based on the ideology that natural rights on land can be acquired through productive use. Even though Locke focused on unowned or natural property, he did emphasise on rewarding the useful labourer. Contrary to this view is the context whether the land owner the leaves the property empty for future plans as in Beaulane Properties Ltd v Palmer. The morality of the urban squatter can also be viewed by applying Radins personhood theory, which drew on Hegels justification for private property, emphasised the relationship that develops between the individual and certain items of property that become constitutive of their personhood, and argued that these relationships should be protected because to achieve proper self-development to be a person an individual needs some control over resources in the external environment. Drawing from the personhood theory, it can be argued that the the (im)morality of squatting raises complex jurisprudential issues, which were not admitted under the Law Commissions agenda against adverse possession in registered land. Justifications for the New Law Certainty of title is one of the important social objectives behind rules of adverse possession. If claims to land that are based on long possession are nevertheless allowed to be defeated by others showing that they were the owner some time in the past, it is inevitable that title to land becomes uncertain which are not conducive to a liberal market engaged in exchange and bargain. The basic premise must be that long, unchallenged possession of land should not be disturbed. The Limitation Act operated in an arbitrary way in providing a cut off point when the true owner could not challenge the title of another possessor of the land to which the original title pertained. The resulting uncertainty over title has an impact not only on the person who has been in possession of the land, but also on third parties such as purchasers and mortgagees who may have interests in the land. In other words, title in real property law must be seen as operating in a multitude of transactions concerning the same piece of land. Leaving aside one or two exceptions, the uncertainties that arise in relation to the ownership of land, are unlikely to arise if land registration is compulsory. In this case, the landowner can be easily identified from the Land Registry. Even though the possibility of problems arising

with registered land is there in relation to strips of land near to boundaries as the Land Registry generally plans to indicate general boundaries but the new regime is necessary.

Limitation periods are based on the principle that people should not be able to sit on their rights indefinitely without exceptions. However, no immediate plans for the land should entitle a trespasser to acquire the land simply because he has been permitted to remain there for 12 years and it seems illogical and disproportionate. It is because following the justification of adverse possession, in the absence of the limitation period, a squatter would be entitled to claim possession whenever he wanted the land and in the absence of any steps taken by the owner, the owner should lose hectares of land to the squatter with no compensation whatsoever. Human Rights In Graham v UK, a claim was brought against the UK in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) alleging that the decision of the House of Lords was incompatible with Article 1 of Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR concluded that Pyes right to peaceful enjoyment of its property had been infringed by the operation of the statutory provisions relating to adverse possession contained in the Land Registration Act 1925 and the Limitation Act 1980 and that this was unjustifiable without compensation being given to the landowner. Furthermore, the changes introduced by the Land Registration Act 2002 address much of the potential injustice of adverse possession law for registered landowners (which was not in force at the time of the case).