Monday, December 03, 2007

In a case of squatters' rights, Colorado couple wins in court but not in local opinion

Adverse possession is part of the fine print -- in the law, not a deed -- that comes with property ownership. In short, it means that if you don't use it, you might lose it. In October, a retired judge and his wife in Boulder, Colo., invoked the rule, sometimes known as squatters' rights, to claim part of a neighboring vacant lot — property owned by their neighbors, reports the Los Angeles Times. A judge awarded Richard McLean and Edith Stevens the land since they had used it — unknown to the land's owners, Don and Susie Kirlin — for the last 20 years, reports DeeDee Correll.

"The doctrine of adverse possession, which says a person can gain possession of property after using it without challenge by the owner for a certain length of time, isn't a new or obscure legal doctrine," Correll writes."Still, its application in this case has the residents of this university town fuming." Don Kirlin said the seized property is worth about $1 million, and that he thought it was joke when he heard about the case. Many in the community took the Kirlins' side. There was a protest outside the property that drew 200 people, and state legislators are considering changes to the law, Correll reports.

Rules about adverse possession vary from state to state and can require five to 30 years of uninterrupted used to be invoked. California requires five years of use and the payment of property taxes at the same time. Kentucky requires 15 years of unchallenged use. (Read more)

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