Tacking in Property Law: A Comprehensive Guide

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Written By LoydMartin

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Ah, property law—a domain filled with complexities and nuances that can make even the most seasoned legal professional pause. One of the lesser-known yet incredibly vital concepts within this realm is “tacking.” What is tacking in property law? How does it impact property rights and ownership? Well, buckle up because we’re about to dive deep into this intriguing subject, demystifying tacking and exploring its significance in property law.

Understanding Tacking in Property Law

What Is Tacking?

In the simplest terms, tacking in property law refers to the process by which successive periods of adverse possession by different possessors can be combined to satisfy the statutory period required to claim ownership of the property. Essentially, it allows a series of adverse possessors to “tack” their periods of possession together, forming a continuous period that meets the legal requirements.

Why Is Tacking Important?

Tacking is crucial because it helps clarify and streamline property ownership disputes. Without tacking, each adverse possessor would have to meet the statutory period independently, making it significantly harder to claim ownership. By allowing tacking, the law recognizes the reality of how property can change hands informally over time.

The Legal Framework of Tacking

Adverse Possession

Before diving deeper into tacking, it’s essential to understand adverse possession. Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a person to claim ownership of land under certain conditions, including continuous possession, without the permission of the original owner. The key elements of adverse possession typically include:

  1. Actual Possession: The possessor must physically use the property.
  2. Open and Notorious: The possession must be obvious to anyone, including the rightful owner.
  3. Exclusive: The possessor must not share possession with others, including the original owner.
  4. Hostile: The possession must be without the owner’s consent.
  5. Continuous: The possession must be uninterrupted for a specific period, which varies by jurisdiction.

How Tacking Works

Tacking comes into play when one adverse possessor transfers their interest in the property to another. This transfer can occur through various means, such as selling the property, passing it down through inheritance, or even through an informal agreement. The key is that there must be a legal connection, often referred to as “privity,” between the successive possessors.

Privity in Tacking

Privity is the legal relationship that allows for the connection of successive periods of possession. Without privity, tacking cannot occur. Privity can be established through:

  • Deed or Conveyance: A formal transfer of the property from one possessor to another.
  • Will or Inheritance: Passing the property through a will or inheritance.
  • Agreement: A mutual understanding or agreement, even if informal, between possessors.

Real-World Examples of Tacking

Example 1: The Case of John and Jane

Imagine John has been in adverse possession of a piece of land for 10 years, but the statutory period for adverse possession in his state is 20 years. John sells the property to Jane, who continues to possess the land for another 10 years. Because of privity through the sale, Jane can tack John’s 10 years onto her own, meeting the 20-year requirement to claim ownership.

Example 2: Inheritance Scenario

Suppose Alice adversely possesses a property for 15 years, and the statutory period is 25 years. Alice passes away, and her son Bob inherits the property and continues the adverse possession for another 10 years. Here, the privity established through inheritance allows Bob to tack Alice’s 15 years onto his own 10, meeting the 25-year requirement.

Legal Challenges and Considerations

Proving Privity

One of the significant challenges in tacking is proving privity between successive possessors. This proof can sometimes be contentious, requiring clear and convincing evidence of a legal relationship.

Jurisdictional Variations

The rules and requirements for tacking can vary significantly between jurisdictions. Some states may have additional requirements or limitations, making it essential to understand the specific laws in your area.

Interruptions in Possession

Continuous possession is a critical element of adverse possession and tacking. Any interruptions can reset the clock, making it impossible to tack periods together. Courts will closely examine any gaps or interruptions in possession.

Common Misconceptions About Tacking

Myth 1: Tacking Can Occur Without Privity

As discussed, privity is essential for tacking. Without a legal connection, successive periods of possession cannot be combined.

Myth 2: Tacking Applies Only to Land

While tacking is most commonly associated with land, the concept can apply to other types of property, such as personal property, provided the legal requirements are met.

Myth 3: Tacking Is Automatic

Tacking is not an automatic process. It requires legal action and proof of all necessary elements, including continuous possession and privity.


What is the primary benefit of tacking in property law?

The primary benefit of tacking is that it allows successive adverse possessors to combine their periods of possession, making it easier to meet the statutory period required to claim ownership.

Can tacking be used for any type of property?

While commonly associated with real estate, tacking can apply to other types of property, such as personal property, as long as the legal requirements are met.

What happens if there is a gap in possession?

If there is a gap or interruption in possession, the continuity required for adverse possession is broken, and tacking cannot occur. Each period of possession would then need to meet the statutory requirement independently.

How can one prove privity for tacking purposes?

Proving privity typically requires clear evidence of a legal relationship between successive possessors, such as a deed, will, or formal agreement.

Does tacking apply in all jurisdictions?

Tacking is recognized in many jurisdictions, but the specific rules and requirements can vary. It’s essential to consult local laws to understand how tacking applies in your area.


Tacking in property law is a fascinating and vital concept that plays a significant role in resolving property disputes and clarifying ownership. By allowing successive periods of adverse possession to be combined, tacking acknowledges the realities of how property can change hands over time. Whether you’re a legal professional, property owner, or simply a curious reader, understanding tacking can provide valuable insights into the complexities of property law.

In summary, tacking is all about continuity and legal connection. With the right conditions met, it can turn fragmented periods of possession into a seamless claim to ownership, highlighting the intricate dance between law and real-life property dynamics.

Authoritative Links

  1. Cornell Law School – Adverse Possession: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/adverse_possession
  2. American Bar Association – Property Law: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/real_property_trust_estate/publications/ereport/rpte-ereport-2020-06/
  3. Legal Information Institute – Tacking: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/tacking
  4. Nolo – Understanding Adverse Possession: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/adverse-possession-property-law
  5. FindLaw – Real Estate Law: https://www.findlaw.com/realestate.html

By understanding and utilizing the concept of tacking, property owners and legal professionals can navigate the complexities of property law with greater clarity and confidence.