Adverse Possession in Colorado: Understanding “Squatter’s Rights”

Understanding Colorado Real Estate Law

Adverse possession, colloquially known as “squatter’s rights,” is a legal doctrine that allows an individual to acquire ownership of a piece of land without purchasing it. This concept can seem perplexing, especially when considering the fundamental tenets of property ownership. However, when understood within the scope of Colorado law, its purpose and parameters become clearer.

Origin and Purpose

The principle of adverse possession traces its roots back to English common law. Its primary purpose was and still is, to ensure the productive use of land. If a landowner neglects or fails to use their property, and another person begins to use or live on that land openly and without permission, over time the “squatter” may acquire legal rights to that property.

Criteria for Adverse Possession in Colorado

For someone to claim property under adverse possession in Colorado, certain criteria must be met:

  • Actual Possession: The person claiming the property (the “adverse possessor”) must have actual physical control over the property. This typically means they live on it, maintain it, or use it in a consistent manner.
  • Hostile Possession: The adverse possessor must occupy the property without the legal owner’s permission. The term is often misunderstood, “Hostile” does not mean aggressive or confrontational; rather, it indicates the absence of consent from the actual owner.
  • Open and Notorious: The possession must be visible and obvious. Meaning the use of the land can’t be secretive. Neighbors and others should be able to recognize that someone is occupying the property.
  • Continuous Possession: In Colorado, the adverse possessor must continuously occupy the property for a period of 18 years. However, this time frame can be reduced to just 7 years if the adverse possessor has been paying property taxes. In the event there are multiple adverse possessors, the 18-year requirement may be met through the principle of tacking. In the state of Colorado, successive possession can be tacked together to be considered continuous possession, as long as there is privity between successive occupants of the property.
  • Exclusive Possession: The adverse possessor must not share possession with others, including the legal owner. Their occupation of the land should be as if they are the true owner.

Color of Title

In some cases, an individual may believe they have a legitimate title to the property due to a defective or erroneous deed. This is referred to as having the “color of title”. In Colorado, when an individual possesses land under the color of title, the time required to establish an adverse possession claim may also be reduced.

Defending Against Adverse Possession Claims

If you are a landowner in Colorado and suspect someone is trying to establish an adverse possession claim on your property, it is essential to act promptly. Strategies may include:

  • Regularly inspecting and maintaining your property.
  • Leasing the property to the individual, thereby negating the “hostility” requirement.
  • Taking legal action to remove the individual.


Denver LawyerAdverse possession is a complex legal concept deeply rooted in ensuring land’s productive use. Landowners in Colorado should be aware of this doctrine to safeguard their property rights. Those who believe they have a legitimate claim to a piece of land through adverse possession should also understand the criteria and potential challenges involved.

Are you grappling with an adverse possession claim or any other real estate legal concern? 

Trust the expertise of a seasoned Colorado Real Estate Attorney. At Baker Law Group, we pride ourselves on offering top-tier legal services tailored to your unique needs. Whether you’re seeking a Real Estate Attorney in Colorado or looking to understand more about “squatter’s rights”, we’re here to help. Secure your property rights with the guidance of a dedicated Real Estate Attorney Colorado Trusts.

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