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Land Laws: Claiming Land, Granting an Easement, and Adverse Possession

Our resident land laws expert exposes a scheme related to claiming land, and answers reader questions about land ownership and use.

| February/March 1999

  • land laws - claiming land
    Claiming free land in the U.S. isn't as simple as recent ads represent (or misrepresent) it.
  • land laws - adverse possession
    The legal concept "adverse possession" is one possible was a small property owner can fend off harassment from a larger adjoining owner.

  • land laws - claiming land
  • land laws - adverse possession
Recently, several queries have come in questioning the validity of ads for claiming land in America. The ads state that, for a fee, the advertiser will tell you how to do this, and hint there is plenty of land for the taking. Also recently, MOTHER EARTH NEWS received an "editorial" from a Peter Temple, originally from England and now living in Canada, on how to claim free land in America and STRIKE IT RICH! We followed up on this and, for $19.95, received information on how to claim land from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the mining land laws of 1872.

Unfortunately, because so many foreigners have claimed large tracts of U.S. soil under these laws and then converted the land to other uses, the BLM has placed a moratorium on granting ownership through mining patents. This has been in effect for over four years. It is still possible to stake a mining claim, but at present, establishing a permanent residence on a claim is not allowed, nor will a claim ever ripen into a patent for ownership. Also, the mine must be worked to keep the claim valid. Naturally, a great deal of paperwork for the claim and some filing fees are required by the BLM.

Mr. Temple justifies his fee by citing his research costs and long distance calls to gather the information, but, in actuality, the information is out-of-date and untrue. The correct information is readily available at no charge to anyone who contacts their regional BLM office.

Q: Recently, I decided to purchase a property here in Wrangell, Arkansas. It's just over two acres, with an old dwelling (it's not handsome but, with TLC, could be livable).

However, the real estate broker is somewhat difficult to reach by phone and occasionally in person. I suspect she may have designs on this property for herself or a close friend. I am a WWII veteran, age 85. Could this be age discrimination? I would appreciate your professional opinion.

- Orvall Kyle, Arkansas 

A: This sounds like a matter of miscommunication. Sometimes, when a person indicates interest in a property, the broker mistakenly perceives it to be mere curiosity. You should make an appointment to meet the broker or go to her office and tell her directly that you want to purchase the property.

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