In 2008, the New York Legislature enacted sweeping changes to Article 5 of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) that governs the circumstances under which title to real property may be acquired by adverse possession. The legislation was intended to overturn the Court of Appeals decision in Walling v. Prysbylo,1 in which the court had reaffirmed the ancient rule that an adverse possessor’s knowledge of the true owner would not preclude the vesting of title in the adverse possessor upon the expiration of the statute of limitations.2 The implementation of the 2008 amendments has changed adverse possession law to make it harder for someone with bad intentions to use the adverse possession statute to obtain rightful ownership to property they know belongs to another. The 2008 amendments mandate that the act shall apply to claims filed on or after July 7, 2008, the effective date of the amendments.3

The Court of Appeals has not determined any of the issues raised by the new adverse possession statute.4 However, in accordance with the statutory mandate, the Court of Appeals has ruled, in Estate of Becker v. Murtagh,5 that if a claim was filed before the amendments took effect and rights were vested by adverse possession before the amendments were effective, the old law will apply. The Court of Appeals did not address the effect the new amendments would have on cases brought after the amendments became effective but where ownership rights are alleged to have vested prior to July 7, 2008.

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