Real Estate Law
Have Real Estate Law Questions? Ask a Real Estate Lawyer.
Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Also, I can only answer the questions you specifically ask and based on the facts that you give so please be sure that you ask the questions you want to ask and provide all necessary facts.
I'm not following, are you saying the church has the right to the property by virtue of adverse possession or they are trying to defeat ownership of the property claimed by adverse possession?
You can't get a deed by adverse possession (AP) since AP is an equitable claim for ownership.
You have a couple of choices. The first is to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit to have the court determine that the church owns the property by way of adverse possession. As you know, there are a number of different requirements for adverse possession to apply but the lawyer can go over all of those and how it can be proven in the court. The lawyer will also have to locate the current owners of the property so that they can be served. It is possible that if the owners can't be found that he can have the court appoint an attorney ad litem to represent their interest and then serve them by publication.
If for some reason the lawsuit doesn't work, and likely the lawyer will be able to review all of the facts ahead of time and tell you how the judge is likely to rule, then you would still be able to locate the current owners and negotiate with them to purchase the land.
Finally, if neither of these work, another options is to convince the Assessor to take the property for taxes and put it up at auction, or at private sale if that is allowed where you are, and then have the church make the purchase there. Based on what you've listed in your facts the market value of the property shouldn't be very high and there shouldn't be any type of competitive bidding war.