STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION
Assemblyman JOHN S. WISNIEWSKI
District 19 (Middlesex)
Assemblyman UPENDRA J. CHIVUKULA
District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)
Assemblyman ALBERT COUTINHO
District 29 (Essex)
Shortens time periods for adverse possession, clarifies statutes, and repeals N.J.S.2A:14-30 and N.J.S.2A:14-31.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel
An Act concerning adverse possession, amending N.J.S.2A:14-7 and N.J.S.2A:14-8, supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes, and repealing N.J.S.2A:14-30 and N.J.S.2A:14-31.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey.
1. N.J.S.2A:14-7 is amended to read as follows:
2A:14-7. Every action at law for real estate shall be commenced within 20 years next after the right or title thereto, or cause of such action shall have accrued. Twenty years' actual possession of any real estate excepting woodlands or uncultivated tracts, and 30 years' actual possession of woodlands or uncultivated tracts, uninterruptedly continued by occupancy, descent, conveyance or otherwise, shall, in whatever way or manner such possession might have commenced or have been continued, vest a full and complete right and title in every actual possessor or occupier of such real estate, woodlands or uncultivated tracts, and shall be a good and sufficient bar to all claims that may be made or actions commenced by any person whatsoever for the recovery of any such real estate, woodlands or uncultivated tracts.
2. N.J.S.2A:14-8 is amended to read as follows:
2A:14-8. [ a. No person or body politic or corporate shall be sued or impleaded by the state of New Jersey for any real estate, or for any rents, revenues, issues or profits thereof, except within] a. Every action at law for possession of real estate by the State of New Jersey, any agency thereof, or any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to its instrumentalities and independent authorities, or for rents, revenues, issues or profits thereof shall be commenced within 20 years next after the right or title thereto or cause of such action shall have accrued; except as to real estate or lesser interests held by the State, any agency thereof, or any political subdivision of the State, including, but not limited to its instrumentalities and independent authorities, that were at any time used or intended to be used for a public or transportation, environmental, recreational, governmental, educational, charitable, institutional or other similar purpose or held in public trust, whether such use be at the time of acquisition or sometime thereafter; and except as to real estate or lesser interests held by a public utility, as defined in R.S.48:2-13, used or intended to be used for the provision of utility service to the public.
b. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if a person, for 40 years, has possessed real estate that was tidal-flowed prior to that period and not tidal-flowed at any time thereafter, the State shall be barred from any claim of riparian rights and the person shall have good title in the real estate, provided that the possession:
(1) is consistent with N.J.S.2A:14-7;
(2) is based on an instrument recorded as provided by law that describes the property, and
(3) has been accompanied by payment of all real estate taxes and other assessments on the property.
3. (New section) In all cases arising under this act, the required period of possession shall include possession by the person and all others with whom the person is in privity.
4. N.J.S.2A:14-30 and N.J.S.2A:14-31 are hereby repealed.
5. Sections 1 and 4 of this act shall take effect on the second anniversary following the date of enactment and shall apply to interests in land measured on and after the effective date and sections 2 and 3 of this act shall take effect immediately.
This bill is intended to clarify the statutes concerning adverse possession and promote the stability of land titles in light of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in J & M Land Co. v. First Union National Bank, 166 N.J. 493 (2001).
Under the current statutes governing adverse possession, N.J.S.A.2A:14-30 and 2A:14-31, a possessor is vested with title to real estate after 30 years’ actual possession of the real estate, unless the property consists of woodlands or uncultivated tracts. Title vests to the possessor of woodlands or uncultivated tracts after 60 years' possession. However, two other statutes seem to conflict with N.J.S.A.2A:14-30 and 2A:14-31. Under the provisions of N.J.S.A.2A:14-6, every person with any right or title of entry into real estate must make such entry within 20 years after the right or title accrues; under N.J.S.A.2A:14-7, every action for real estate must be commenced within 20 years after the cause of action accrues. In the J & M case, the plaintiff had had 39 years’ possession of a tract of uncultivated land that actually belonged to First Union Bank, an adjoining landowner. When J & M sought a court declaration that it had acquired the land through adverse possession, the court turned it down, ruling that the 60-year period of N.J.S.A.2A:14-31, and not the 20-year time period of N.J.S.A.2A:14-7, applies.
As a result of this decision, it is unclear how title is held after an adverse possessor has occupied land more than 20 years but less than 30 years (or, where applicable, 60 years). The Supreme Court noted that the Legislature might choose to clarify the matter by enacting appropriate legislation. 166 N.J. at 521.
This bill addresses the problem by repealing N.J.S.A.2A:14-30 and 2A:14-31 and by amending N.J.S.A.2A:14-7 and 2A:14-8 to provide that title may be acquired by an adverse possessor after 20 years in most cases, and after 30 years in the case of woodlands or uncultivated lands.
The bill provides that adverse possession does not apply to real property held by the State of New Jersey, or any agency or subdivision thereof, so long as the property is dedicated to or used or intended to be used for a public or transportation, environmental, recreational, governmental, educational, charitable, institutional or other similar purpose or held in public trust. In Devins v. Borough of Bogota, 124 N.J. 570 (1991), the court held that municipally-owned property that is neither dedicated to nor used for a public purpose is subject to acquisition by adverse possession. The State and its subdivisions, however, have numerous properties that are not in active public use but are being held for future public use such as the expansion of existing facilities or for highway or rail purposes. If these properties are subject to adverse possession claims, not only could the State lose valuable property but public projects may also be jeopardized.
The bill would therefore clarify that the holding in Devins is limited to properties that are not used or being held for public purposes, and the other purposes enumerated above, limiting the ability to adversely possess publicly owned property to property such as that which has been taken by foreclosure actions or which has been forfeited.
The bill also protects persons who for 40 years have possessed real property that was tidal-flowed more than 40 years ago, but not since that time, from a riparian rights claim by the State, provided the person has good title to the property according to a deed or other recorded instrument describing the property and the person has paid the property taxes on the property.