Adverse Possession at the Condo?


M.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My family has been in possession of a condo in Michigan since 1969 at which time the parking spots for this unit and the unit of my neighbor were switched per an agreement. In September, 2000 the neighbor died and gave a written note to my new neighbor discussing the switching of the parking spots. At this time the new neighbor agreed. Now in November 2015 my neighbor wants to switch back the space. I have added a finished roof and trim to the space and at the time asked if she wanted to pay something to finish above where she was parking as well, she didn’t; however, I partially finished it as well to make it nicer. She wants now to park in that space and not pay for the improvements nor add them to the other space. We have been parking in that spot for the past 46 years, 15 of which are while she has been the new neighbor. Do I have a case of adverse possession to keep the space? In the Condo documents it states that each unit is assigned a designated parking spot, but we have switched that 46 years ago and I would like to keep it that way. Do you have any advice? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you any legal advice or comment on adverse possession. I will say that 46 years is an awfully long time for this parking arrangement to have withstood a mutual agreement between neighbors, even with the neighbors turning over. I am not sure what you mean by improvements to the space and what exactly happened 46 years ago to lead you into this predicament but unless there is a large sum of money involved in the improvements, it may be best to simply start parking where your correct space is located and be thankful that you had use of the space for the past 46 years. My guess is that you are talking about deeded parking here (not owned by the association, but rather the individual unit owners). If that is the case, the deed would likely prevail as the document that dictates ownership of the space. Improvements made on a space you didn’t own would not give you right to the space as far as I know. You weren’t squatting in the space, you had an agreement. You may want to speak with qualified legal counsel for a legal opinion and consider if it is worth pursuing a legal remedy. Keep in mind that you will effectively be suing your neighbor if you do so. That isn’t a very neighborly thing to do in my opinion, especially when you have to live and see this person on a regular basis as you come and go from your condo. I hope the two of you find an amicable solution. Good luck!

4 thoughts on “Adverse Possession at the Condo?

  1. I am also not an attorney and I am not positive, but if the switch was made and the documents allow for the switch and the documents regarding the switch were recorded in the court, you should be able to stay in the space. I do not believe you would be able to collect for any improvements you made to her space, and she might be able to make you remove any improvements you made to her space. Best to consult with a attorney that specializes in condominium law.

  2. Disclosure: I am not a licensed attorney. Among the elements to satisfy the legal definition of adverse possession includes that the possession be hostile (meaning without permission of the owner). Here, you had an agreement. Aside this, many states no longer recognize adverse possession. On the other hand, you had an agreement (hopefully written) with the previous owner. You’ll want to check with an attorney to see if this agreement, which may be a form of easement or covenant which passed with the land (condo in this case) and thereby it is still existing. I’d move fast and secure a real property attorney; there may be a statute of limitations on your ability to act.

  3. Just my opinion as a fellow condo owner – looks like the neighbor wants the new, improved space at your expense. If legally you have to ‘give it back’, I would take down and (if possible) move the improvements to ‘new’ space. Why should she benefit from your expense?? She should be ashamed for trying to take advantage of you – not a good neighbor (imho). I’d avoid her. Maybe I’m not as nice as you, but then, I’m not being taken advantage of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *