I was recently asked the following question: Is there any possibility that the adverse possession argument might stand? Though this question was posed for a property in Villa Borinquen and without much detail, what I am about to describe applies to any property within Puerto Rico that either: (a) does not appear within the Property Registry at all; or (b) it does appear within the Property Registry under the name of a person other than the one currently occupying the property and who claims is the owner of the property.
We begin by looking at the definition of “adverse” as it appears in www.dictionary.com as follows, specifically definition number “3”: – 3. being or acting in a contrary direction; opposed or opposing: adverse winds. Read the definition again, please, and note the word “being” and the word “acting” within it.
These words by themselves should tell you that “adverse” requires a state of mind, and also requires that you do something in that regards. A claim for adverse possession requires that the person in “possession” of the property is in fact acting, behaving, assuming the point of view of the owner of the property, and also that the person acts as an owner. It is not enough to simply think, claim, scream or…well, you get the message. You have to act “adversely” against any claims by someone else that he/she/it is the owner. It requires action.
That being said–and I hope you got the message loud and clear—there are a series of requirements for adverse possession in Puerto Rico, and these requirements vary in nature and scope, depending on the circumstances or history of each property and the “owners” relationship with it. Accordingly, trying to describe to you each of these instances, or to make any comment which could be interpreted as a legal opinion would be a disservice to you, and would also be beyond the scope of this blog.
Adverse possession can be claimed and obtained if the circumstances are right, including for many properties in Vieques. Nonetheless, you need to bear in mind the beginning sentences of this article. If you are not acting in an “adverse” manner if someone else claims to be the owner or encroaches on your possession, then you may be giving away what could already be yours. This point of view protects whatever rights you may have acquired, if any at all. If you want to understand your specific rights and the possibilities of being succesful in your claim, I recommend that you consult your particular situation with a lawyer of your choice.
To close, I would not want anyone to interpret this article and the emphasis on the term “adverse” as advocating violence. It is not necessary to protect your rights, it is not recommended, and it is not what I or anyone else would want for their families, friends and the beautiful community of Vieques.
Santiago F. Lampón .