Squatters Rights in Colorado and Adverse Possession Law

The last thing a landlord wants to deal with is someone entering a property without their explicit permission. While unlawful entry is generally classified as trespassing, and the authorities can get involved right away, it’s not as simple when there’s a squatter involved who has made the property their home.

Today, we will cover squatters rights in Colorado, so you know what to expect as a landlord. Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Colorado landlords, squatters, and tenants each have rights.
  • Landlords can sign a Verified Motion for Order to Remove Unauthorized Persons from the residence as long as the squatter doesn’t possess a color of title (a document claiming ownership). Otherwise, property owners will need to file for eviction.
  • Squatters have the right to claim property ownership through a process called adverse possession if they meet a series of criteria, such as living at the property continuously for seven to 18 years, depending on the circumstances.
  • It is essential for both landlords and tenants in Colorado to understand squatter rights and to know what steps to take if you ever have a squatter in your residence.
  • If you ever face a squatter situation, know that TurboTenant has a partnership with EZ Evict USA, a trusted company that can handle the eviction process for you. We also offer tenant credit checks and screenings to help landlords quickly fill vacancies with quality tenants for peace of mind.

Understanding Squatter Rights

Squatter rights laws state that a squatter is entitled to dwell on a property without the legal owner’s permission until the owner files a Verified Motion for Order to Remove Unauthorized Persons. Remember, as a property owner, you cannot remove a squatter from a property through a self-help eviction, which means you cannot change the locks or move the tenant’s belongings.

You must go through the proper legal channels to remove an unauthorized person from your residence. As long as the squatter meets specific criteria, they can also contest property ownership through an adverse possession claim.

Squatter Rights vs. Adverse Possession in Colorado

Per squatter rights as outlined in Colorado laws, a squatter has the right to live at a property until asked to leave by the rightful owner. You can’t just toss them out because, as a squatter, they have rights. However, the Colorado Revised Statute §13-40.1-101 makes this process much faster as long as certain conditions are met, which we detail below.

Adverse possession, on the other hand, is the legal framework a squatter uses to claim ownership of a property. In order to do so, the squatter must meet a handful of criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to the following:

  • Living at the property without interruption for no less than 18 years.
  • Living at the property without interruption for seven years – assuming they paid property taxes during that time and have a color of title.

For squatters to qualify for adverse possession, the following criteria must also exist:

  • Actual Possession: There must be proof that the squatter has lived on the premises for a given time frame.
  • Continuous Possession: The squatter must occupy the premises for seven to 18 years, depending on the property tax payments and color of title possession.
  • Open and Notorious Possession: The squatter should openly live in the dwelling without hiding their presence.
  • Exclusive Possession: The squatter should be the only individual living at the premises.
  • Hostile Possession: In this sense, hostile means that no Colorado lease is in place, and the squatter is inhabiting the property against the owner’s will.

Squatter vs. Trespasser

Trespassing means entering a property without the legal owner’s permission. Squatting is similar, except it involves a continuous stay and is often done to claim ownership through adverse possession.

The penalty for trespassing includes jail time and/or fines and does not necessitate an eviction. Squatting rarely results in such penalties, with the worst penalty often being forceful removal by the authorities if the party refuses to leave the premises.

Landlords in Colorado need to understand these legal differences and implications. That way, you know what steps to take if you ever do encounter someone trespassing or squatting on your property. When it comes to squatter rights, Colorado makes its position firm, and it has a straightforward process for handling squatting.

Colorado Laws on Squatters

Squatters rights in Colorado laws state that squatters have the legal right to claim adverse possession if they meet certain criteria, which is rare. Property owners cannot remove a squatter from a property and must provide a Verified Motion for Order to Remove Unauthorized Persons to remove the squatter.

All landlords have to do is sign a Verified Motion and file it with the court to show ownership and demonstrate that the squatter does not have the legal right to the property. (Note: There could be legal issues if the squatter ends up having evidence of adverse possession.)

In short, it is vital to understand Colorado’s state laws regarding squatters to know what you’re allowed to do as a landlord or as a tenant.

How Squatters Can Legally Claim Property in Colorado

Squatters can legally claim property ownership in Colorado by doing the following:

  • Provide evidence supporting their adverse possession claim. Evidence includes receipts that demonstrate they paid property taxes or pictures showing that they improved the state of the property (e.g., took care of landscaping, added hardscape, and maintained the garden).
  • File a quiet title through the court to clarify property ownership. A quiet title “quiets” competing property ownership claims to determine rightful ownership.
  • Display the evidence supporting the property ownership claim before the court in a hearing.

If the court grants adverse possession, the squatter will be allowed to stay. However, if they don’t, the squatter will be given a time frame to gather their belongings and vacate the premises.

According to squatter rights in Denver and other cities throughout Colorado, if they remain after that period, the sheriff’s department will remove them.

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

  • Landlords have the right to ask the squatter to leave; if they don’t, they will file a motion by providing a Verified Motion for Order to Remove Unauthorized Persons. Keep in mind that tenants are not considered squatters. A squatter is someone who has not been a tenant and has no relation to the property owner.
  • Landlords are allowed to photograph the property and compile evidence to support claims that the squatter has not been living on the premises. This is done to refute squatter claims of continuous possession during an 18-year period (or seven years if they’ve been paying property taxes).
  • Landlords do not have the right to remove the squatter without going through legal processes.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

  • Tenants have the right to live on a property with a valid lease.
  • It is a tenant’s responsibility to inform authorities if they notice trespassers or contact the landlord if they find squatters on the premises.
  • Tenants should never attempt to remove squatters by themselves.

How to Evict Squatters in Colorado

There are two ways to evict squatters in Colorado:

  1. Sign a document to have the squatters forcibly removed as long as they don’t have a color of title or other claims of ownership.
  2. Provide a notice of the intent to evict and begin the eviction process.

The process of evicting squatters in Colorado works like this:

  • You provide a formal notice with a clear timeline on how long the squatter has until they must leave, with one option being a three-day unconditional quit notice.
  • You file a complaint in court (Form JDF 99if the squatter does not comply.
  • A summons will be issued by the Sheriff’s Department or another qualified party.
  • The squatter can file an answer, disputing the claims and filing an adverse possession claim if they meet the criteria. (Note: As previously indicated, this involves a significant amount of evidence – e.g., property tax receipts, continuous period of property inhabitation, color of title, etc.).
  • The homeowner or their lawyer must go to a hearing to provide the deed, receipts, and any other evidence of ownership against the adverse possession claim.
  • The judge will provide a writ of restitution to allow the authorities to remove the squatter from the property once it is proven that you are the legal owner and any adverse possession claims are invalid.
  • The squatter will have approximately two days to exit the property before the authorities get involved.

Legal Help for Landlords in Colorado

Take a look at our Colorado landlord-tenant law resources and the associated services toward the bottom of that page. If you’re looking for a legal advisor in Colorado, visit the Colorado Bar Association online and search for a licensed attorney in your city specializing in property law.

You can also contact our trusted partner, EZ Evict USA, if you need a done-for-you eviction service.

Disclaimer: TurboTenant does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state, and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.

Preventing Squatter Situations

Here are some tips on how to avoid squatters in Colorado:

  • Install a security system.
  • Check on the property often.
  • Hire a landscaper to mow the lawn.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
  • Work with a property management software provider like TurboTenant to avoid a vacant property.

How TurboTenant Can Help

TurboTenant is the premier property management software trusted by over 650,000 independent landlords throughout the U.S. We provide tenant screening and background checks to help you find qualified tenants for your property. Keeping tenants in your property is the most effective way to prevent squatters from taking up residence.

In addition to conducting tenant screenings, there are multiple benefits of choosing TurboTenant for property management in Colorado. For instance, we offer all the necessary rental management tools in one easy-to-use software solution. That means you no longer have to use multiple services for listing properties, maintenance, and tenant screening.

We’re also partnered with EZ Evict USA, which can handle your eviction from beginning to end, if needed, while adhering to all squatters rights in Colorado laws.

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