Adverse possession and boundary by acquiescence are similar but distinct legal claims in Missouri. Adverse possession is a claim which permits a person to obtain title to real estate if they have used and treated it as his or her own for a significant period of time. To succeed on a claim of adverse possession, a person claiming ownership of real estate must prove that the possession of the real estate was (1) hostile, (2) actual, (3) open and notorious, (4) exclusive and (5) continuous for a period of ten years. Cooper v. Carns, 263 S.W.3d 729, 733 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008.). The rationale for adverse possession is that the law desires to promote the utilization of land. Adverse possession cases are extremely fact specific and the analysis will often turn on the relationship of the parties and the location and nature of the disputed real estate.
Boundary by acquiescence is a different type of real estate claim, but, depending on the facts, may be asserted in conjunction with adverse possession. It is a rare, murky claim. Unlike adverse possession, which establishes title, acquiescence establishes a boundary. It may be shown by an express agreement or by acquiescence to a boundary for a period of time sufficient to evidence a mutual acceptance of the dividing line as the common boundary by the adjoining owners. To give an example, if two adjoining landowners dispute whether a natural or artificial barrier/mark is the boundary land, but continue to occupy and use the land up to the boundary, once a sufficient time has elapsed to satisfy the requirements of acquiescence, the natural/artificial barrier or mark is now considered to be the boundary.
Broken down into elements, a party trying to prove boundary by acquiescence must prove (1) an uncertain or disputed boundary line and (2) acquiescence of the adjoining landowners in a definite and certain dividing line, marked by natural/artificial structures, as the boundary. Weiss v. Alford, 267 S.W.3d 822, 827 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008). Acquiescence exists if there is (a) mutual conduct/acts of the adjoining landowners reflecting a recognition of the boundary, (b) occupation and use by the parties up to the dividing line, and (c) continuation of the mutual acts and occupation and use for a sufficiently long period of time to show the parties’ mutual acceptance of the boundary. Id. at 827-78.
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