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When color of title is not so possessed by the claimant the real owner has no means of notice as to the extent of the adverse holder's claim, other than his acts of possession indicate; and it is said that constructively the possession of land is prima facie in the owner of it. The code sections express this rule as it is generally applied. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 322, 324. Nevertheless, in order that this rule of constructive possession shall apply in favor of the adverse claimant, it must appear that that portion of the land upon which he plants his hostile possession is a part of that claimed adversely. He cannot, under a deed which conveys a good title to a portion of a tract and a colorable one only to another portion thereof, take possession of the portion to which he receives good title and by so doing maintain the claim that constructively he is in possession of the whole of the tract. His right to the possession of property, the complete title to which he has acquired, would be no sort of notice to the true owner of the land not occupied that he claims to be in possession of that also.
Appellant, a potential adverse possessor of land, claimed land based upon a conveyance and argued that the boundary line with appellee had been fixed and certain by long acquiescence as being located along a straight line. Appellant argued that it had obtained a prescriptive title to all the land in dispute. According to the appellant, it had paid taxes on the land in dispute for five years, had made improvements, and argued that the deeds were sufficient to give it title. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) granted judgment in favor of appellee. Appellant challenged the judgment.
Under the circumstances, did the appellant obtain a prescriptive title to the land in dispute by virtue of adverse possession?
The court affirmed the judgment and order in favor of appellee, holding that the boundary line could not have been fixed at a difference place from where the record title located it when there was no active possession on the part of claimants adverse to the record, nor any dispute or question expressed as to the true location of the line. The court noted that there was no entry upon or actual possession maintained of any part of the land in dispute until a date less than five years prior to the start of the action. According to the court, under Cal. Civ. Code § 322, a constructive adverse possession required continued occupation for five years. It would have been unfair to deprive appellee of title to his land without him ever having actual notice that his title was disputed when there was no visible invasion of his premises.