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Q: Squatting on government lakefront land / Determining 'true' ownership ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Squatting on government lakefront land / Determining 'true' ownership
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: mr_m-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 24 May 2006 17:49 PDT
Expires: 23 Jun 2006 17:49 PDT
Question ID: 732151
I live in Oakland County, MI, across the street from a lake which I
would like to have access to.

According to the Road Commission's books, the plot of land is a lake
access point for DNR.  The GIS available on the web and the computers
at various county offices also show this property to be government
land.  This would mean that the public should have access to it.

However the plot of land has been completely fenced off for 10+ years
by the neighbors.  I question whether these people own the land, or
have been squatting on it.  Several different people that live in the
area state that they took ownership of the property by putting up this

My questions are as follows
1) If the land was in fact never sold to them, is there law that will
allow them to retain it (from the gov't) since they have taken care of
it for 10+ years?
2) Does paying tax on gov't property over the last 10+ years
constitute anything for a person that squats on it?
3) What should my next steps be to the bottom of the truth.  Please
list any paperwork/people that I should obtain/review/speak to and
from what locations/buildings it can be found - Phone #'s would be nice.  

Any insight into this issue would be most beneficial.  The outcome
that I would like is for the property to be accessible to the public
if it is not truely owned by this neighbor.
Subject: Re: Squatting on government lakefront land / Determining 'true' ownership
Answered By: weisstho-ga on 28 May 2006 19:40 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear Mr M,

In Michigan, "adverse possession" (sometimes known as "squatter's
rights") can be claimed by a person who has occupied another person's
property in an "exclusive, open, adverse, continuous manner for a
period of 15 years."  See cases below. Likewise, a "prescriptive
easement" can be claimed by a person who has used another person's
property in the same manner as adverse possession, except that the
exclusivity element is not required.

OK, what does this legalese mean?  First, the 15 years:  this is a
statute of limitation that means that after 15 years, the legal owner
cannot bring a court action to evict someone either occupying or using
their land.

But here is the answer to your question: In Michigan, a state law,
Michigan Compiled Laws chapter 600, section 5821 (MCL 600.5821) says
that the statute of limitation does not apply to the state (subsection
1) or a municipality (subsection 2) ? which means that the State of
Michigan can evict someone squatting on their property, anytime. So,
IF the land is indeed owned by the government, the neighbors can fence
it for 50 years and it wouldn't make any difference ? they can still
be evicted or ejected.

Here is the Statute, MCL 600.5821:
(1) Actions for the recovery of any land where the state is a party
are not subject to the periods of limitations, or laches. However, a
person who could have asserted claim to title by adverse possession
for more than 15 years is entitled to seek any other equitable relief
in an action to determine title to the land.
(2) Actions brought by any municipal corporations for the recovery of
the possession of any public highway, street, alley, or any other
public ground are not subject to the periods of limitations.
(3) The periods of limitations prescribed for personal actions apply
equally to personal actions brought in the name of the people of this
state, or in the name of any officer, or otherwise for the benefit of
this state, subject to the exceptions contained in subsection (4).
(4) Actions brought in the name of the state of Michigan, the people
of the state of Michigan, or any political subdivision of the state of
Michigan, or in the name of any officer or otherwise for the benefit
of the state of Michigan or any political subdivision of the state of
Michigan for the recovery of the cost of maintenance, care, and
treatment of persons in hospitals, homes, schools, and other state
institutions are not subject to the statute of limitations and may be
brought at any time without limitation, the provisions of any statute

Here is an excerpt from a Michigan case that is on point:
According to MCL 600.5821(1), a party may not assert an adverse
possession claim against the state because the state is not subject to
the period of limitations, and therefore, is not required to take
action within 15 years to prevent the party taking title by adverse
possession under MCL  ?An easement is the right to use the land of
another for a specified purpose.? An easement does not displace the
general possession of the land by its owner, and it grants the
easement holder qualified possession only to the extent necessary for
enjoyment of the rights conferred by the easement. An easement by
prescription arises where a party has used another's property in a
manner that is open, adverse, and continuous for a period of fifteen
years. An easement by prescription claim requires the same elements as
an adverse possession claim, except for exclusivity. The Michigan law
provides a similar rule for municipal corporations. Furthermore,
Michigan law, in one form or another, has exempted municipalities from
adverse possession claims since 1907.

And, here is another:


The paying of tax, if indeed it were even possible, would NOT make any
difference to the analysis.


Your next steps should be:

1.  Call a local title company and order a title search of the
property at issue and get their expert opinion as to the status of the
current ownership and the chain of title. This is the best way to
determine, with certainty, as to whether the property is indeed owned
by the state. This should cost less than $200.  You can get a quote up

2.  The title company is an outstanding source for whom to call.  

You could also call:

3.  The DNR's Land Management Division can be contacted at PO Box
30452, Lansing MI 48909-7928, (517) 335-3348.

4.  Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division of the
Michigan Attorney General, G. Mennen Williams Building, 6th Floor, 525
W. Ottawa Street, P.O. Box 30755, Lansing, MI, 48909, (517) 373-7540,
Facsimile (517) 373-1610.

Adverse possession suits are expensive: it's not hard to spend a
minimum of $10,000  and more probably like $25,000.

The best advice that you can get will be from the title company ? once
you have that certain information about the true title of the
property, you will be loaded to rock and roll.

Good luck.  If you need anything else, please hit the CLARIFICATION
button and I'll get back to you.



Search Strategy

Michigan "adverse possession" 
Michigan Legislature ? chapter index ?  "adverse possession"

Clarification of Answer by weisstho-ga on 28 May 2006 19:44 PDT
Check with a competent local attorney on this:

IF you discover that the property is indeed owned by the State, could
you remove the fence making sure that the fencing is left for the
owner of the fence.

Leaving the fence would avoid a conversion claim or a criminal action . . . 

Obviously a risky procedure, but IF the property is NOT private
property, then the fence owner doesn't have a right of action against

High Risk, though.
mr_m-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
I am early in my journey, so I may have additional questions in the
future.  I hope they will be answered as well as you answered this
one!  This will give me a great start.

Thanks for the complete answer...  $5 tip

Subject: Re: Squatting on government lakefront land / Determining 'true' ownership
From: daniel2d-ga on 24 May 2006 18:15 PDT
1. You can not gain ownership of government owned property by advserse
possession or squatting on it.

2.  Contact the DNR and find out the land situtation from them and
notify them of the fence.

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