Thursday, February 7, 2008

Adverse Possession Reform Bill Goes to House Floor

The bill aimed at toughening requirements to obtain title to land through the ancient doctrine of "adverse possession," a process that stirred controversy in Boulder last year, is on the way to consideration by the House after a committee approved it Wednesday.

HB 1148, which has broad bipartisan support, was inspired by the case of a Boulder couple who lost part of a parcel of land they planned to use for a retirement home to a former state judge and his politically active wife. The Boulder County district court that entered the order transferred ownership of the land from Don and Susie Kirlin to Richard McLean and Edith Stevens.

Colorado law has long held that a person can obtain title to another person's land if they occupy it continuously and openly for at least 18 years.

The bill would put in place a requirement that plaintiffs seeking a court order transferring title under the adverse possession doctrine prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that they believed in good faith that they owned the land and would authorize judges to require claimants to pay for the land in question.

The committee heard testimony from the Kirlins.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, said that Colorado might have the most permissive adverse possession law in the country. He said that his bill would update the state's law to make it consistent with that in place in a number of other states.

The bill now goes to the House floor. HB 1148 is also sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.