Ritter approves 'land grab' bill
Adverse possession law set to change
Beginning July 1, people hoping to use "adverse possession" to take control of another person's land had better be prepared to pay for it, thanks to a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Bill Ritter.
Ritter gave final approval to House Bill 1148, which modifies the longtime legal concept that allows trespassers to claim another's land after using it openly and continuously for at least 18 years.
The bill, which garnered wide bipartisan support among state lawmakers, requires that an adverse possessor believe in "good faith" that the land is actually his or her own. It also raises the burden of proof in an adverse-possession case and gives judges the power to make plaintiffs payfor any land they are awarded.
Rep. Rob Witwer, R-Evergreen, and Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, co-sponsored the bill, which was crafted in the wake of a controversial Boulder land dispute.
Richard McLean and Edith Stevens sued neighbors Don and Susie Kirlin in 2006 using adverse possession. In October, the former district court judge and attorney won their case -- and 34 percent of the Kirlins' vacant, next-door lot.
"I'm just so impressed and happy with the Colorado Legislature," Don Kirlin said. "The fact that they were able to change a law so that no one would have to endure what we went through ... is pretty monumental."
Witwer on Friday said the bill is a victory for property owners.
"This will make it harder to abuse adverse-possession law," he said. "Frankly, it should have been done decades ago. But it's better late than never."
Earlier this month, Ritter signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, which -- beginning Aug. 6 -- will require Colorado district and county court judges to step down from cases involving other current or former judges within the same district when requested.
Levy said she sponsored her bill in reaction to the Kirlin case.