You cannot get ‘half-ownership’ of a property you’ve rented for five years

22 March 2023
What was claimed

You can claim half-ownership on a property if you have lived there for seven years, and now that has been changed to five years.

Our verdict

This appears to be a misunderstanding about squatters rights, or adverse possession, where someone can apply to acquire ownership of a property if they act as the owner, unchallenged after 10 years. However, this does not apply for those renting from landlords.

A video on Facebook, viewed more than 370,000 times, falsely says you can claim “half ownership” on a property as long as you have lived there more than seven years.

In the four minute long video, a man claims that it “used to be seven years before you could go for half ownership of the property” and that after 10 or 12 years “you could put in and be the full owner of that piece of land”. 

He links this to claims about Serco offering landlords contracts lasting six years and 11 months in order to provide housing to asylum seekers, saying that after seven years “they can go for full ownership on your property”.

He goes on to clarify in a subsequent video that he is claiming that tenants of a property rented from a landlord can go after “full ownership” if they have been in the house “for 10 years”.

None of this is true. Full Fact spoke to multiple housing law experts who confirmed that people who have rented a property are not able to claim any ownership of it simply because they have lived there for a certain number of years.

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What’s wrong with the video?

Robert Brown, a barrister at Selborne Chambers specialising in landlord and tenant, property, housing and public law, said the claims were “nonsense”.

He told us: “It is possible to acquire ownership of someone else’s land by being in possession of it. This is called adverse possession.” 

Adverse possession is where squatters can acquire ownership of a property if they act as an owner, unchallenged over a long period of time, and without legal entitlement or the owner’s consent.

Mr Brown added: “This does not apply if you are renting because that is done by consent.”

“Tenants should be aware that they have rights but this is not one of them.”

David Smith, Partner at JMW Solicitors and specialist in residential property rights, told Full Fact the claims made in the video were “definitively not correct”.

Mr Smith also told us: “There is no system to obtain ‘half ownership’.”

Both experts added that the Land Registration Act 2002 (which came into force in 2003) meant it was much harder to obtain adverse possession as a squatter, because although a squatter can apply after 10 years (instead of 12 as it was previously) to become the registered owner, the original owner now has two years to object. This makes such applications less likely to succeed.

Certain council tenants have the right to apply to buy their homes after three years with a public sector landlord, but this involves paying for the property. 

Misinformation like this, which misinterprets the law, could risk causing unnecessary distress to people about their housing situation, or could cause them to plan their lives based on rights or responsibilities that they don’t have.

Where did the claim come from? 

At the start of the video, the man says “all the homeowners in this country who are renting properties or thinking about…putting up immigrants in your house” should listen to what he has to say.

Later, he mentions a “Serco contract”, which means that “after seven years, they can go for full ownership on your property. So what they've done is they've put this contract out there under the time limit of six years and 11 months.”

This appears to refer to Serco looking for properties in the North West, Midlands and East of England where Serco would act as tenant in order to provide accommodation to asylum seekers.

Serco told Full Fact that not all of these contracts were for just under seven years. A spokesperson clarified that there is a charge to register a lease that’s seven years or longer with the Land Registry. 

This explains why the contracts are for just under this length of time. It is not to stop Serco or the residents “[going] for full ownership of your property”, as the video claims.

Image courtesy of Michal Balog

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