Squatters Rights in Colorado
A squatter can take possession of property adversely. Under certain conditions, the law will recognize them as legal property owners. It’s sad but true, and it’s more common in the U.S. than you would think.
Now, like landlord-tenant laws, each state defines its own squatters’ rights. In this article, we’re going to look at the squatters’ rights in Denver specifically.
Who is a Squatter?
A squatter is anyone who stays on a property without lawful permission from the owner. In most cases, such properties are either abandoned, foreclosed or unoccupied. Cases of squatters acquiring commercial buildings adversely are rare but still occur.
What are Squatters’ Rights?
As we have seen, an unauthorized tenant, also known as a squatter, is an individual or a group of people residing on a property they don’t rent or own.
Through adverse possession laws, a squatter can become the legal property owner. There are, however, several requirements the squatter must meet. For example, they must have stayed on the property continuously for a certain number of years. In Denver, the continuous occupation must be at least 18 years.
What’s the Difference between a Squatter and a Trespasser?
Trespassing is the act of knowingly and willingly entering or occupying someone else’s property without their approval. Squatting, on the other hand, is the act of knowingly and willingly occupying someone else’s property with the intention of claiming its ownership.
In addition, squatting is usually civil in nature whereas trespassing is a criminal offense.
Is it Legal to Squat in a Home?
While the rights of squatters are protected, squatting isn’t legal. In fact, more often than not, squatters may be considered trespassers.
What of Holdover Tenants?
Also referred to as tenants at sufferance, holdover tenants are tenants who choose to remain on the property after their lease is over. The tenant lives there at the will of the landlord and continues to abide by the terms of the lease agreement.
A landlord can end the tenancy at any time without notice. Once asked to vacate the premises, the tenant cannot make an adverse possession claim. At that point, they become trespassers.
What Does Adverse Possession Mean in the State of Colorado?
Adverse possession is a principle in law that allows a person to acquire someone else’s property legally. However, to do so, the squatter must meet several requirements. The requirements are as follows.
1. The Possession by the Squatter Must Be Actual
In other words, the squatter must be physically present and treat the property like the actual owner would. The squatter can show proof of this by presenting evidence of their maintenance efforts.
2. The Possession Must Be Obvious to Anyone
In legal terms, the possession must be “open and notorious.” Anyone should be able to tell that the squatter is living on the property, including the actual owner investigating the issue.
3. The Possession Must Be Exclusive
To make an adverse possession claim, a squatter must also need to be possessing the property exclusively. They must not be sharing the property with other tenants or squatters.
4. The Possession Must Be Continuous
To make an adverse possession claim, a squatter must be able to show they have been residing on the property for a continuous time period. In Colorado, this period must be at least 18 years. If the squatter leaves the property for long enough for it to be considered “abandoned,” this time period would have to start again.
5. The Possession Must Be Hostile
In a legal sense, “hostile” doesn’t take any definition that involves violence or danger. Rather, it takes on three different meanings.
The first definition is “Simple Occupation.” The majority of states go by this definition. It defines a hostile claim as one that goes against the owner’s interests. The trespasser may or may not know who the property actually belongs to.
The second definition is “Awareness of Trespassing.” The trespasser must be aware that their actions amount to trespassing. In other words, the trespasser must know that they have zero rights to occupy the property.
The other definition is “Good Faith Mistake.” This defines trespassing as a mere innocent error on the part of the trespasser. They could be relying on an invalid deed, for instance, that they sincerely thought was valid.
Do Squatters Need Color of Title to Make an Adverse Possession Claim in Denver?
You are bound to encounter the term "Color of Title" when looking up squatters’ rights. It’s especially important in Colorado, as having it means less period of continuous occupation. With it, a squatter will need to have occupied the property for only 7 years before making an adverse possession claim.
Do Squatters Need to Have Been Paying Taxes for 18 years?
No. This isn’t a requirement for squatters in Colorado. However, if they have been doing so and have a color of title, the time for a continuous occupation will reduce from 18 years to 7 years.
How Do You Go about Removing Squatters from Your Denver Home?
From security deposit laws to evictions, there is always a legal process to follow. After the passing of Bill SB 18-015 in 2018, removing squatters has become significantly easier in Colorado. It was passed with the aim of protecting landowners in circumstances such as long military deployments and extended vacations.
To remove a squatter under the new law, all you have to do is sign a document under penalty of perjury. This will then alert the police that there are squatters living on your property without your consent.
With this bill in place, as a Denver homeowner, it means that you are saved from going through the laborious and often stressful state’s eviction process to remove the squatters.
How Do You Protect Your Denver Property from Squatters?
- Have someone keep an eye on it if you are intending to go away for an extended period of time
- Have it inspected on a regular basis
- Secure all entrances. You can even consider installing CCTV cameras throughout the property
*Disclaimer: This post is only meant to be educational and is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need further help, please hire professional services from an experienced Denver attorney.