21 May 2015

Period of adverse possession accumulated against the British Colonial Government expired on 30 June 1997

In Hong Kong, section 7 of the Limitation Ordinance (Cap.347) provides for a 60-year limitation period for the government to bring actions to recover land.

In the recent High Court case Jade’s Realm Ltd v Director of Lands [2015] HKEC 95, the Plaintiff and its predecessors-in-title had been in adverse possession of a piece of government land in the New Territories since 1937 (or even earlier). The Director of Lands’ included in its Amended Defence that since the title of the Colonial Government over the piece of land was a leasehold title, any adverse possession period accumulated against the Colonial Government had come to an end on 30 June 1997 when the lease expired. Any period accumulated after 30 June 1997 was less than the required 60 years. Such defence was accepted as valid in rejecting the Plaintiff’s application to strike out the same.

This might be considered as an important decision for similar adverse possession claims against the government, since claimants may no longer rely on any 60-year period which started prior to and ends after 1 July 1997 as the period required for adverse possession against the government.