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Adverse Possession in Colorado

Adverse Possession Claims in Colorado

Adverse possession—also known as “squatters rights”—is a legal concept that usually arises during a real estate transaction, boundary dispute, or property dispute. It refers to the legal method by which one person gains ownership of another person's property by occupying and using it without the original owner's permission.

Establishing an Adverse Possession Claim

It can be quite challenging to establish an adverse possession claim. Colorado courts will employ a six-prong test when assessing adverse possession claims. If you are trying to gain ownership of a property by adverse possession, you will need to prove all the following elements to the adjudicating court:

  • Actual Possession. You must engage in what the legal world calls "actual and exclusive" use of the property. Actual possession means you are physically using the property in the ordinary way for that type of land and in a way that prevents the true owner from using it and gives notice to the owner that you are using the property (i.e., "open and notorious").
    • Maintenance of shrubbery, landscaping, fencing; mining; fixing up a house; and use for farming or grazing, are examples of actual possession.
  • Hostile Use under claim of right. You must occupy the property with the belief that the property is yours. This does not mean hostility in a violent or forceful sense.
    • Building a fence around land, planting trees, installing irrigation, and building buildings on land have been found to meet the element of hostility.
  • Adverse. Your possession of the property must go against the interest of the true owner. This element cannot be met unless the true owner is given notice that you adversely possess the property. Adverse means the true owner has not given permission for your use.
    • An example could be maintenance and use of a ditch on other property and walking on a property every morning.
  • Uninterrupted/Exclusive Possession. The property must be in the uninterrupted, exclusive possession of a party other than the true owner for at least 18 years. However, absolute exclusivity is not needed.

In 2008, the Colorado state legislature passed a bill making it more difficult for a party to obtain property through adverse possession. The bill included three notable changes to the previous standard. First, you must reasonably believe in good faith that you are the property owner. Second, the burden of proof standard was increased from a preponderance of the evidence to clear and convincing evidence. Lastly, instead of obtaining the property at no cost, as had been the case, a judge may require you to pay for it.

Preventing an Adverse Possession Claim

Property owners may be able to prevent adverse possession claims from arising by posting No Trespassing signs on their property or requiring users of the property to sign a lease or use agreement. Regularly walk the property and use it. If someone occupies the property without permission, the owner should call the police and file a trespassing report.

Contact an Experienced Attorney in Colorado Today

Adverse possession claims aren't very common, but when do they arise, it is essential to consult an experienced real estate attorney. We have a wide variety of experience representing parties claiming adverse possession and parties being threatened with adverse possession. Whichever side you're on, we are here to help. Call us today at (720) 441-3328 or contact us online to request a free consultation.

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