How Adverse Possession Can Affect Buying A Block

Did  you know its still possible to take over ownership of someone else’s private land?

This makes it important to check the Land Title Plan dimensions against the actual site dimensions of your new house block for the following reasons:

  • If the actual dimensions are bigger it doesn’t mean the seller owns the ‘extra’ land unless they can demonstrate adverse possession.
  • If the land is smaller a neighbour may have ‘acquired’  ownership by adverse possession.

Either way you could be in for a considerable amount of legal costs to get the ownership of the land sorted out.

Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession is when someone becomes the owner of land through continued exclusive use of that land.

Limitation Period

Before land can be obtained by adverse possession there has to be continued use use of the land for an extended period. That period is different for the various states as follows:

  • Victoria, 15 years
  • South Australia, 15 years
  • New South Wales, 12 years
  • Western Australia, 12 years
  • Tasmania, 12 years
  • Queensland, 12 years

Crown (Government) Land

With the exception of New South Wales and Tasmania you cannot claim Crown Land. In those two states a longer (30 year) limitation period applies.

The reasons are that it is harder for a government to keep an eye on its lands, and it is assumed that the government hold possessions for the public good, despite any apparent neglect.

How Adverse Possession Claims Work

Adverse possession means not mere occupation but also actual physical possession in an open and peaceful manner, without consent of the original owner.

Any form of permission ( a licence, a lease, or an agreement to use the land), and the claim of adverse possession will fail because it will be clear that the owner gave consent for use with no intention to pass over ownership.

Proof to the Titles Office in your State that the land has been  occupied for the entire period of time is required.  

Evidence will be, that as a minimum, at least one of the following has occurred for the whole of the limitation period :

  • A secure fence has been in place without challenge ;
  • ‘Keep Out, Private Land’ signs have been erected without challenge;
  • Payment of rates and taxes.

The information in this post is of a general nature and you should not try to deal with adverse possession issues without involving a lawyer.


For more Information why not look at: anewhouse Guide to Buying a Block




Gates for Sloping Driveways

If you have a sloping drive it can be difficult to install a gate.

One option is to install a sliding gate which rolls to one side. These although expensive can work quite well if the whole of the front is level and you have plenty of room between the driveway and the path to the front door.

As you can see with the above installation the roller gate will block the pedestrian gate.

Not enough room, or want a lower cost solution, then you can use conventional gates with offset hinges which allow the gates to swing up as they open (See below)

These hinges will need to be made to suit the slope of the driveway so you may need to buy the gates from a specialist gate company rather than from your local DIY store.

For more about Boundary Treatments see Fences


Brickwork – 45 Degree Corners

One of the things that really annoys me as I walk around is 45 degree bends in brick fences like this photo.

Bricks are meant to be laid so that they fully interlocked and this is a long way short of that.

I have even seen this type of corner on a house, where the joint will lead to penetration of water into the wall.

What this tells me is that someone:

  • Didn’t understand what can be done.
  • Planned the work poorly.
  • Tried to save money.
  • Employed dodgy bricklayers.

The photo on the left is what a proper 45 degree brick corner should look like.

It uses a special brick which is called a squint.

These brick are a special order, so they take time to be delivered, and they are more expensive……………….but they do make a much better job!

See Bricks for more posts on understanding brick work

 Planning some building work in the garden? see Brick Fences


Brick Fences

As I travel around the Melbourne Suburbs I see lots of brick fences……….. A problem with a large proportion is that they have obvious cracks.

If you don’t believe me just walk around your neighborhood and look at a few brick fences yourself!

So why are there problems with brick fences?

  • The actual cost of the wall in both materials and labour is high resulting in people trying to minimise on wall and pier thickness.
  • Although many people think of brickwork as an inert material it is still subject to expansion and contraction which needs to be accommodated with proper detailing.
  • Unless the thickness of the wall is increased for taller walls the weight of the top portion of the wall acts against the overall wall stability.
  • Brick work is actually a fairly brittle structural material which relies on its weight for a lot of its strength. The jointing material of mortar is much weaker than the bricks.
  • Due to the considerable weight of brickwork it needs substantial (expensive) foundations which will not be subject to any settlement.
  • If it’s built on clay there is more chance of movement……The soil below the narrow foundation can gain, or lose, moisture more readily than under a house slab.
  • Although it ‘feels’ as solid as a concrete wall it may only have a tenth of the structural strength of a well designed reinforced concrete wall.

Here are a few recommendations;

  • Don’t try to save money on the foundation. After all that’s what all those expensive bricks are standing on. A 500mm wide x 300mm deep concrete with trench mesh should be the minimum.
  • Brick piers a minimum of 320mm x 320mm with vertical steel reinforcement.
  • Minimum wall thickness should be 210mm (double brick)
  • Have articulation/expansion joints at 5m intervals.
  • Use horizontal steel reinforcement every 6 courses.
  • It you are retaining soil get the wall properly designed.

All sounds too expensive?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Perhaps brick piers with infill timber or steel panels may be the way to go!

Remember – “There is no such thing as a cheap brick wall”.

For sizes of brick walls see Brick Dimensions