Adverse possession refers to how someone can gain ownership of a property without paying for it. Generally speaking, a trespasser can take possession of land and/or structure and get the legal title. They do this by moving onto the property and then making improvements where it would be a hardship to leave it.
The trespasser could be a squatter who moves into an abandoned or neglected building. More often, the neighboring property owner mistakenly or intentionally annexes the property and treats it as their own. They may have even bought an adjoining parcel with the understanding that it included property not owned by the seller. After purchasing the property, they may build fencing, driveways, or structures wholly or partially located on land they do not own. If owners do not challenge the possession, they eventually can assume ownership.
Requirements to assume ownership
Those who assume possession but do not have the title must meet these requirements:
- They must not have the owner’s permission to enter or use the property.
- They must occupy and be present on the land, treating it as their home.
- They must pay taxes on the property for seven years.
- They must use the land in an obvious way, such as a residence, ranching or farming.
- They must occupy the land for a continuous period of 18 years without sharing it.
The burden of proof remains with the occupant or trespasser.
Do not take this matter lightly
Some neighbors do not want to make waves or threaten the friendship with the occupier, but ownership of property is very serious business for landowners in Colorado. These disputes can be hard-fought and pit neighbor against neighbor, with each side believing they are right. The two sides can resolve the matter between themselves, but these matters often require litigation.