South-Western Legal Studies in Business

County Road Not Abandoned Long Enough for Property to Be Taken by Adverse Possession
Description Appeals court held that although a county was willing to abandon a road that it no longer maintained in favor of property owners along the road, because the property had not been abandoned for ten years, as required by Iowa law, the property owners were not qualified to obtain title to the property by adverse possession.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Adverse Possession; Abandonment; Time
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A public gravel road had been used for many years. In 1978 two families bought property on one side of the road. After that, use of the road generally ended as weeds grew on it and the families treated the road as an extension of their property. The county did not maintain the road. In 1993 the families requested the county officially vacate the property. The county indicated that it would not object if the families attempted to obtain title to the property through adverse possession. They filed for title to the property and began paying taxes on it in 1994. A neighbor across the road disputed the attempt, as they had obtained a permit for water, sanitary sewer and street improvements to the road. The trial court found that the county had abandoned interest in the property and that the two families had established a claim of adverse possession. The neighbors across the road appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The record does not support abandonment of the property by the county. There must be evidence that a municipality has not used the property for more than ten years. While the county expressed a willingness to abandon the property and the two families were assessed taxes beginning in 1994, it appears that there was occasional use of the road at least until 1993, so the property had not been abandoned for ten years. Hence, title to the property cannot be obtained by adverse possession.

Citation Meyer v. Winneshiek County, 2002 WL 31307350 (Ct. App., Iowa, 2002

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