Overview of Squatters Rights in Colorado
Property rights are the foundation of a free society. In fact, our country is founded on them.
Dealing with a squatter who refuses to leave your property can be frustrating and emotionally taxing.
In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the squatters rights in Colorado.
Who Exactly is a Squatter?
A squatter is a person who occupies or settles in a property without having any legal claim to it. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all squatters are a threat to the stability of the property itself as well as the property owner’s financial situation.
Squatters typically live in unoccupied, foreclosed, or abandoned residential buildings. Additionally, while they do occur, cases of squatters occupying commercial buildings aren’t exactly unheard of.
Squatters occupy a property or an area of land without the legal consent of the owner. Basically, this signifies that they live there without any consent from the owner and for free without any obligations to pay rent.
Yet, the squatting problem in Colorado continues to be a common issue.
Are Squatting and Trespassing the Same?
Not necessarily. Squatting is typically a civil issue, whereas trespassing is criminal in nature. That said, if the rightful owner is successful in establishing that the accused is actually unwelcome, then squatting can be qualified as a criminal action.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you have a squatting problem in the state of Colorado:
- The state of Colorado has some of the most relaxed laws in regard to squatting in the U.S. The laws aren’t extensive and give squatters a lot of rights. Consequently, this makes it difficult for rightful owners to remove them from the property rather easily.
- Trespassers or squatters can falsely claim rightful ownership of your property. They can provide doctored documents or provide false proof of their rights to the property. This is illegal.
- Just like everyone else, squatters also do have rights. Nonetheless, to remain occupying the property, they must meet certain requirements. If they can’t, they risk being charged as trespassers.
- Those that usually take advantage of the rights of squatters are homeless people. In most cases, their goal is just to find somewhere free to stay for a while as opposed to seeking legal ownership of the property.
If you have been in the property management business for a while, then this is something that you have probably dealt with. A holdover tenant is a renter who refuses to leave a property once their lease is up.
In this case, the tenant is still accountable for paying rent on existing rate and existing lease terms. As a landlord, it will be your prerogative to either accept this or go to court to have them removed from your property.
If you choose to accept it, then both you and the tenant will continue to be bound by the terms of the existing lease agreement. However, if you no longer want them as tenants, then you have to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in court.
Can a Squatter in Colorado Claim Adverse Possession of a Property?
Yes, a squatter can claim adverse possession of a property after a certain amount of time lapses while they are still occupying the property. According to Colorado laws, this period is 18 years. After occupying the property for more than 18 years, a squatter can claim adverse possession.
This period can also be shortened if the squatter has been faithful in tax payments and has color of title. In this case, they would only need to reside on the property for a period of at least 7 years.
If a squatter claims an adverse possession, he or she may become a legal owner of the said property. If successful, the squatter will no longer be living there illegally.
Before claiming adverse possession in the US, a squatter must meet the following 5 unique legal requirements. The occupation must be:
- Continuous: The squatter must occupy the property for an uninterrupted period of time.
- Exclusive: The squatter must be occupying the property exclusively without other squatters, owners, or tenants.
- Open and Notorious: The squatter must also not try to hide the fact that they are indeed a squatter.
- Actual: The squatter should actually occupy the property. To prove this, they must present proof of efforts to beautify the property or make improvements.
- Hostile: Here, hostile shouldn’t be taken to mean dangerous or violent. It takes three definitions. One, the squatting must have occurred “in good faith.” In other words, the squatter should have been unaware of the property legal status by, for instance, relying on invalid documents.
Two, the trespasser must be aware of their illegal action. The third definition of a hostile claim is “Simple Occupation.” Here, a hostile claim is defined as one that goes against the owner’s interests.
"Color of Title" in Colorado.
This is a term that you have probably encountered when looking up squatter’s rights in the state of Colorado. Simply put, the color of title is a situation in which a person appears to own a piece of property but lacks valid ownership papers.
In the state of Colorado, color of title must be a written document. A squatter can claim it after having been successful at completing an adverse possession claim.
How to protect your property from illegal occupation from squatters:
- Pay your own taxes.
- Serve written notice to illegal occupants as soon as possible.
- Place “No Trespassing” signs on the property, particularly if it isn’t currently occupied. You could also lock all doors and block all entrances.
- Inspect the property on a regular basis.
- Have someone keep an eye on the property while away on vacation.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for legal advice. Laws change and this post may not be updated at the time of your reading. If you need more help, please seek help from a licensed attorney. Moreover, you can also contact McGuire Property Management & Sales for more information.