California Landmark Cases on Adverse Possession

The elements necessary to establish title by adverse possession are: (1) tax payments, (2) actual possession which is (3) open and notorious, (4) continuous and uninterrupted for five years, (5) hostile and adverse to the true owner's title, and (6) under either color of title or claim of right. The party asserting title by adverse possession has the burden of proving affirmatively each one of these elements." (California Maryland Funding, Inc. v. Lowe (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 1798, 1803.) A complaint seeking to quiet title based on adverse possession "shall allege the specific facts constituting the adverse possession." (Code Civ. Proc., 761.020, subd. (b).) "Such possession cannot be made out by inference, but only by clear and positive proof." (Kraus v. Griswold (1965) 232 Cal.App.2d 698, 709.) In Estate of Williams (1977) 73 Cal.App.3d 141, 147, the court addressed color of title as follows: "The element of 'color of title,' as a part of proving adverse possession, has been described as 'founded on a written instrument, judgment or decree, purporting to convey the land, but for some reason defective. The possessor has what appears to be title, and, if he is in good faith, is protected. This is so even though the instrument is void on its face. . Color of title is received in evidence for the purpose of showing that the title is adverse and it therefore dispenses with other proof of hostile or adverse claim.' . The good faith of the occupant, in relying on a defective instrument, is a crucial element to establishing adverse possession based upon color of title."