Every American has the right to own property. In fact, our country is founded upon property rights. The laws involved govern our day-to-day life as property owners.
That’s where having a squatter takes its toll. Knowing that you have a squatter living on your property can be stressful and emotionally draining. Your property rights have been breached.
The following is a basic overview of the squatter’s rights in Colorado. Understanding the rights you have as a property owner, as well as squatters’ rights in Colorado, can help you safeguard your property against unwanted intruders.
What Is a Squatter?
A squatter is someone that occupies a property they have no legal claim to. They pose a threat not only to the property’s stability but also to the actual owner’s financial standing.
Squatters in Colorado usually occupy residential buildings that are unoccupied, abandoned, or foreclosed upon. In addition, while they seldom occur, cases of squatters occupying commercial buildings can happen.
Besides lacking the legal consent to occupy a property, squatters are also under no obligation to pay rent.
Squatting vs. Trespassing: What Is the Difference?
A thin line exists between the two terms. Squatting is civil in nature and can only become a trespassing issue if the actual owner establishes that the squatters are no longer welcome.
Trespassing, on the other hand, is where someone knowingly and willfully occupies or enters a person’s property without consent. It’s a felony and is punishable by law.
Also, a squatter occupies a property with the intention of owning it, whereas a trespasser doesn’t harbor such intentions.
That said, here’s some information to keep in mind when it comes to squatters in the state of Colorado:
Colorado has relaxed laws in regards to how property owners should deal with a squatter problem. As a result, removing a squatter is anything but easy
Squatters or even trespassers can use doctored documents to claim your property
The state gives squatters certain rights. If they meet the requirements, they may be able to take over actual ownership of your property
What Is a Holdover Tenant?
A holdover tenant is one that refuses to leave after their lease has expired. They live “at the will” of the landlord. This means that the landlord may be able to evict them at any time they desire. Needless to say, the landlord must follow the statewide eviction process.
Now, an “at-will” tenant who has been asked to leave by their landlord becomes a trespasser. They cannot try to claim legal ownership of the property by filing an adverse possession claim.
What is Color of Title?
Anyone is bound to encounter this term when searching for squatter’s rights in Colorado. Color of title is a term in property law that describes a situation in which someone ‘owns’ a property through irregular means.
Basically, the person may not have one or more of the required documents to own a property. An example of color of title would be a handwritten and signed document from an ancestor, documenting how the property changed hands. The claimant would then need to regularize the documents in order to get the actual title to the property.
Having the color of title in Colorado has a major impact. It can greatly reduce the continuous occupation time required by a squatter to file an adverse possession claim.
What is Adverse Possession?
Adverse possession is a legal principle in property law that allows someone to claim a property right on land owned by someone else. In other words, adverse possession means that a squatter living in your Colorado property may be able to acquire legal ownership rights to your property.
The squatter would only need to satisfy a few requirements in order to make an adverse possession claim for consideration.
The following are the requirements to claim adverse possession:
The claim must be hostile. Different states follow different definitions in this regard. But generally speaking, most states define a hostile claim as one that goes against the owner’s interests. The trespasser may or may not be aware that they are trespassing
The trespasser must actually possess the property. In other words, the trespasser must be physically present on the property and treat it like they would their own. Proof of this can be established through any maintenance efforts the trespasser may have done
The squatter can’t try to hide their occupation of the property. Everyone, including the property owner, must be able to tell that there is a squatter on the property
The trespasser or squatter must occupy the property exclusively. Sharing it with others, such as tenants, would invalidate their adverse possession claim.
The squatter must reside on the property continuously and openly for 18 years before claiming adverse possession. This period can, however, be shortened if the squatter has the color of title and has been paying property taxes.
How Do You Remove Squatters from Your Colorado Property?
Before Bill SB 18-015 came into Colorado law, removing squatters was a significant challenge for property owners in Colorado. However, once the law was enacted, the removal of squatters became quicker.
The bill is intended to offer protections to landowners on, among other things, military deployments and extended vacations. All landowners need to do is simply sign the document to get squatters removed.
The landowner is required by law to sign the document under penalty of perjury. As such, if falsely signed, the landowner can get sued. Once signed, it’ll alert the police that the squatters are living on the property without permission.
In most other states, removing a squatter is akin to evicting a tenant. Landlords must go through their state’s eviction process in order to get rid of the squatter. Often, this process is lengthy, stressful, and costly.
How Can You Protect Your Property from Squatters in Colorado?
There are a few things you can do to avoid the legal mess that comes with squatters:
Have someone keep an eye on your property while you are away
Inspect the property regularly
Secure all entrances to the property
Erect ‘No Trespassing” signs on the property, more so if it’s unoccupied
Hire a professional property management company that is familiar with squatter’s rights laws
Squatters are a nightmare for property owners. Aside from the intrusion on your property, you face the potential of even losing your own property should they follow certain procedures. As such, it’s vital to protect your property against them. Adhering to Colorado law is imperative when dealing with squatters on your rental property.
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