Woźniak Legal has successfully represented the true owners of the historic tenement house in Lublin at Bernardyńska 9 over claims from a Polish party regarding the adverse possession in relation to 50% share of this building.
 
On 9 November 2022 the Court of Appeal in Lublin upheld the decision of the court of the I instance issued in 2021 and finally decided that the adverse possession claims towards the property at Bernardyńska 9 in Lublin should be dismissed as unfounded. This brought an end to the five year proceedings in the Polish courts regarding this building. This historic tenement house is in the heart of Lublin. Before the Second World War it belonged to the Langman family and Mandelbaum family.
 
Filip Kowalczyk, who has been representing the true owners of the property, said “ It is really uplifting and encouraging that the Courts took the position that the ownership of real estate should be protected by the legal system. A claim of adverse possession is a mixed question of law and fact. Therefore, these cases are very complicated, especially in the situation where one co-owner is trying to acquire the ownership of the other co-owner.
 
The last month’s verdict of the Court of Appeal in Lublin is an important decision on the highly controversial topic of adverse possession regarding the co-ownership of the building. Under normal circumstances. to acquire the ownership of a building through adverse possession, the claimant should demonstrate that he (together with his predecessors) occupied the building for the statutory period of 30 years. Further, the claimant should demonstrate that he behaved as the owner of the building – he looked after the building, paid taxes, held the keys, etc. The claimant should present clear and convincing evidence to this respect.
 
Under Polish law, the acquisition of the property through adverse possession requires actual possession of the property by the claimant for a period of 30 years. Other statutory requirements are that the possession must be hostile to the true owner, the claimant’s possession must be exclusive, the possession must be open and notorious, the possession must be continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period and the possession must be with an intent to claim title to the property occupied. If all statutory requirements are met, title to the property passes as though there had been a conveyance through the traditional methods of deed transfer.
 
It is relatively easy to prove for the claimant that the possession of a building was exclusive, open and notorious if we are talking about the building as a whole (especially when the true owners lived abroad). But if the building is actually co-ownership and one co-owner is trying to acquire the ownership of the other co-owner – this gets really complicated and the judges have to determine who has been the holder of the building and how the possession has been realized in practice.
 
The defendants (who are the heirs of the pre-war owners currently living in America) have never abandoned the building and wanted the claim to be dismissed. They argued that a disputed building belonged to their family for many decades (even during the communist era). Although they live in America and visit Poland rarely, they want to keep this property as part of the Jewish heritage in Poland.
 
The Court held that the claimant did not prove that the possession of the building was exclusive. The claimant purchased 50 % of the building in 1989 and was the legal holder of his share but it does not mean that he automatically held the remaining 50% of the building. For this reason, the claim should be dismissed.

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