Usucaption is a legal instrument defined by the Civil Code as a method of acquiring ownership of real or movable property by a person who has been in actual possession of the property for a certain period of time without being its owner.
Most often the object of usucaption is real estate. Any type of real estate can be covered by usucaption – buildings, land, and premises. The subject of usucaption may also be certain property rights, such as transmission easement, land easement, or perpetual usufruct.
Ask an advocate: What is usucaption?
Usucaption is one of the ways to acquire ownership rights to real or movable property. In practice, most cases involving usucaption concern real estate. Unlike the vast majority of other methods of acquiring ownership of another person’s property, usucaption does not occur as a result of an agreement between the parties (such as a purchase or donation), but rather as a result of the applicable provisions of law and the passage of time.
Time is one of the key factors in usucaption cases. The law distinguishes two modes of usucaption – in good faith and in bad faith. Good or bad faith during the course of a property’s incumbency is a variable that affects the length of time required for incumbency.
The period of time necessary to acquire a property varies depending on whether the possessor acted in good or bad faith and is respectively:
– 20 years in the case of good faith,
– 30 years in case of bad faith.
Judicial proceedings in a usucaption case
In order to establish the usucaption of a property, the possessor must meet two basic conditions. The first is uninterrupted self-possession of the property. The second is the period of time that we indicated above. If the spontaneous possessor fulfils the above mentioned conditions, the possessor acquires the ownership right as of the date of expiration of the relevant period of time and the previous owner loses their ownership right.
The transfer of ownership by way of usucaption occurs automatically. The decision made in the course of a usucaption procedure has a declaratory character. It is merely a confirmation that succession has occurred at a certain point in time in favour of a specific person. The main purpose of these proceedings is to enable the holder to obtain a document confirming their legal title to a given property. In the case of usucaption of real estate, the court’s decision serves as the basis for entry in the land and mortgage register or for its creation.
Importantly, possession of a court order is necessary when dealing with the subject matter of a seizure, or when exercising the right of ownership to the full extent (e.g. to obtain a building permit).
Warsaw: advocate handling usucaption cases
We welcome you to contact our law firm. The advocates at Jurczewski Kępka-Mariański & Partners have successfully conducted many real estate usucaption cases. We will assist you both in determining the chances of succession of a given property and in developing a defence strategy in the case of succession of the property you own. We operate not only in Warsaw – we welcome clients from all over Poland.