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DEAR BOB: How does adverse possession work? I have been using about 20 feet of the vacant lot next door for the last 14 years. I tried to contact the owners, but my letters were always returned unopened. --Pam C. DEAR PAM: Adverse possession occurs when you occupy an entire property without the owner's permission. The law says your occupancy must be "open, notorious (obvious), hostile, exclusive and continuous." In addition, you must pay the property taxes. The number of years of hostile occupancy required varies by state. The shortest time is five years in California. One state requires up to 30 years. Purchase Bob Bruss reports online. But a prescriptive easement can arise when you occupy just part of a property, such as a driveway or the 20 feet in your situation. The "open...