The word possession in land law often coincides with ownership. Although the two words are often confused and majority of people take these words to mean the same thing but possession is not the same as ownership. Possession means having physical custody or control of a property with an intention to continuously retain the property, while ownership is the exclusive legal right to possesses something.
With the help of an illustration, I will further explain the difference between ownership and possession. For instance, where there is a land purchased and owned by Mr. Adamu, squatters on such land other than Mr. Adamu are possessors. Mr. Eze using Mr. Adamu’s land for farming is in possession of Mr. Adamu’s land while Mr. Adamu remains the owner of the land.
Another illustration is in the case of a landlord and tenant. A tenant has possession of a landlord’s house and not ownership. The landlord owns ownership of the land. However, a wrongful possessor could be protected by law even against the true owner of the property. For instance, the law will protect a tenant that was forcefully ejected from his house by the landlord even when the tenant is in arrears of his rent.
A person can either possess a land lawfully or unlawfully.
INSTANCES OF LAWFUL POSSESSION:
- The relationship between a landlord and a tenant; after all necessary agreement has been met by the tenant to the landlord, the tenant is said to lawfully possess the house.
- A person that has the consent of the owner to stay on the property is said to lawfully possess the land.
- A person that has occupied a land for years without disturbance and claim to the land is said to lawfully possess the land and such person can sue any trespasser on the land even if the land is not legally owned by such possessor.
INSTANCES OF UNLAWFUL POSSESSION:
- A tenant that has not met with the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement and is in arrears of his rent, is in unlawful possession of the property.
- A trespasser on a property is said to own an unlawful possession of the land or property.
- A person that has occupied a land without the consent of the owner is said to have unlawful possession of a land.
It is, however, important to note that ownership gives right to possession while possession does not give right to ownership. Now you know there is a difference between ownership and possession.
Ed’s Note – This article was originally posted here.