Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

Best -v- The Chief Land Registrar

R(Best) -v- The Chief Land Registrar and the Secretary of State for Justice [2015] EWCA Civ 17

This adverse possession case did not involve a Gypsy or a Traveller but very occasionally you do come across Gypsies and Travellers who have been on land for many years where it is not clear who the owner of the land is.

The brief facts were that Mr Best had noticed an empty and vandalised property while working on a property next door in 1997. He had been told that the owner had died and that a son had not been seen for years. Mr Best entered the property and did work to it. He replaced ceilings and skirting boards, and electric and heating fitments; he plastered and painted walls. He did this intending to make it his permanent residence. He moved in at the end of January 2012.

He said that he had treated the house as his own since 2001. There had been no disputes about his possession of the property but he occupied it without anyone’s consent. In reality, as a trespasser, Mr Best had been living in the building in breach of the criminal law as from 1 September 2012, when s144 Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPOA) 2012 (making squatting in a residential building a criminal offence) came into force. Mr Best sought to register title through adverse possession in November 2012, the application being on the basis of the 10 years required by Schedule 6 paragraph 1 to the Land Registration Act 2002. The Chief Land Registrar decided that the application would be cancelled on the basis that the effect of s144 LASPOA prevented the Claimant relying on any period of adverse possession which involved a criminal offence to establish the basis for an application for registration as the proprietor.

Mr Best was successful in an application for judicial review and the appeal to the Court of Appeal by the Chief Land Registrar was dismissed. Mr Best was able to claim adverse possession even though he had recently been in breach of the criminal law with regard to living in the property.

See: Best Judgment