The Illegal Land Use Research Project | Land Portal

Squatting and neighbour conflicts over land

People around the world use land without any right or title to the land. This illegal land use may take different shapes. Persons without any access to land occupy and cultivate or build on land belonging to other people. Land owners move the boundaries of their land and extend their houses or gardens onto their neighbour’s land.

Prof. Dr Björn Hoops (Associate Professor, University of Groningen, Netherlands) has initiated the Illegal Land Use Research Project to examine illegal land use and legal responses to it.

This research has got three goals:

The first goal is to determine how often and in what situations illegal land use occurs in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Dr Hoops was awarded a research grant from the Gratama foundation to undertake case studies on illegal land use in Dutch municipalities from September 2017 to March 2018. In addition, we seek to link information on illegal land use in other countries. See the publications for the most recent outcomes of Hoops’ research and studies in other countries.


The second goal is to explore how the laws in different countries respond to illegal land use and, specifically, whether they allow the illegal land user to become owner. In continental Europe, the acquisition by the illegal land user is called “acquisitive prescription”; in the US and the UK, it is called “adverse possession”. To achieve the goal, a legal research group was founded in November 2016. Until May 2018 the members examine the conditions under which a non-owner can acquire land through long-term use in 18 countries. See the section on the research group for more information.


The third goal is to examine how the laws on land acquisitions by illegal land users could be improved. A pilot project is being planned in the Netherlands. The project will examine whether Dutch citizens and stakeholders would see rules from other countries as an improvement compared to the current rules. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), the Royal Association of Notaries (KNB) and the Netherlands’ Cadastre, Land Registry and Mapping Agency (Kadaster) have endorsed this research as being of high societal importance and have agreed to help the research team conduct the research.

PDF iconLetter of Support from VNG

PDF iconLetter of Support from Kadaster

PDF iconLetter of Support from KNB


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