Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Adverse Possession Overhaul Introduced

A bill that would make it harder for people to win a court order awarding ownership of land belonging to others has been introduced in the legislature.

HB 1148, sponsored by Reps. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, and Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, and Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, arises from a controversy over a successful "adverse possession" claim by former Boulder County judge Richard McLean and his wife.

In that case a landowner lost 1,400 square feet of land after McLean and Edith Stevens successfully convinced a state court that they had regularly used the land for 25 years without protest from Don and Susie Kirlin and prior owners.

The bill would change existing law to make clear that adverse possession plaintiffs must demonstrate a "good faith" belief in their ownership of the land and prove their claim by "clear and convincing evidence" instead of the "preponderance of the evidence."

The bill has drawn 32 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, Assistant Minority Leader David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Majority Caucus Chair Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 10 Republicans and Democrats Betty Boyd of Lakewood, Bob Bacon of Fort Collins, Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne, Chris Romer of Denver, Paula Sandoval of Denver, and Suzanne Williams of Aurora.