Key Decisions

May 2013 – A Neighbor Adversely Possessed Property

(filed under: Key Decisions Archive | May 20, 2013)

A Neighbor Adversely Possessed Property

Hagman v. Meher Mount Corporation
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed April 3, 2013

Larry Hagman or his trust owned a 30-acre parcel of land in Ojai, California. In 1987, one of the fences marking the boundary of his property was built in the wrong place. Since then, Hagman had been occupying and improving about a half-acre portion of the 173-acre parcel owned by his adjoining neighbor, the Meher Mount Corporation. Meher Mount was a religious group that was exempt from property tax.

Hagman sued Meher Mount to quiet title to the property he had been occupying, based on adverse possession.

The trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of Hagman.

The Court of Appeal affirmed.

The court noted that the unusual twist is that the neighboring land on which the adverse possession took place belongs to a nonprofit religious organization. However, the Court held that a nonprofit religious organization’s status as a “public benefit corporation” does not make it a “public entity” immune from adverse possession under Civil Code section 1007. The Court also held that a nonprofit religious organization’s “welfare exemption” from property taxes meant that no such taxes were “levied and assessed” on the property during the years it qualified for the exemption. The adverse possessor is excused from the usual requirement that he pay taxes on the disputed land for five years.