Legal Q&A:Can I claim "adverse possession" of my late parents' home?

My parents recently passed away and I have since found out that they bought their leasehold flat using an offshore company that is now defunct. I need to extend the lease. Can I get my name on the deeds?

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QUESTION: I lived with my elderly parents in their leasehold flat until both died — my father five years ago and my mother last year. I moved in to look after them in 1999.

Since my mother’s death I have found the deeds to the flat and discovered my parents bought it in 1984 using an offshore company set up by my father.

Now I have discovered that this offshore company was struck off by its local Companies House in 2000. As this was all so long ago and the company no longer exists, would I be able to claim “adverse possession” of my parents’ flat? I have lived here for 17 years. I need to extend the lease so would like to get my name on the deeds.

ANSWER: Check with the Land Registry to establish the “registered proprietor”, as this could have been transferred and be a different person to the one on the lease.

If the property is not registered and the company that owned it has been struck off, then that company will no longer own the flat and it is likely to be vested in the Crown if the property is based in the UK.

If you have obtained probate and are the executor under your parents’ wills you could apply to reinstate the company in the appropriate jurisdiction, which should enable you to transfer the flat to yourself. In the past you occupied the flat with your parents’ consent and so may be unable to prove the necessary intention to possess the land to enable you to claim adverse possession against your landlord.

However, after the death of your parents you may have a claim for adverse possession if you live in the flat for 10 years, if the property is registered, or 12 years if it is not.


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey

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