If you were following the local news in September of 2017, you may have come across the shocking story of Mr. Roland Hawkins, a landlord who came home from vacation to find squatters occupying his rental property. He called the police, but was informed that since the squatters had been in the house for more than a week, there was little they could do.
The squatters claimed they had been given access to the home by a former renter, which meant that under Colorado law they were not considered trespassers. If a person breaks into a house then it is considered trespassing and the police can remove them. However, if they got into the home in any other way then they are considered squatters and the laws applying to them are more complex!
Adverse Possession Law
Squatters gain possession in different ways. Colorado has an adverse possession law that covers situations in which a person has been using property they don’t own for 18 years. The law is helpful in situations where property has been abandoned by the owner or where the documents showing ownership are very old.
Creative criminals can also use this law to their advantage. For example, in 2013 two men were arrested for squatting in homes that were owned, but unoccupied. They were attempting to establish ownership using the adverse possession law.
The case of Mr. Hawkins home didn’t involve the adverse possession law since the squatters had not been in the home for more than 30 days. That case fell under tenant law. The squatters claimed they had been invited into the home by a former renter and the laws covering landlord-tenant relationships required that they be formally evicted.
In the end, it took several weeks for the process to be completed and the squatters to be evicted from Mr. Hawkins home. Once they were removed, he had to clean up the mess they had left. As any real estate investor knows, not only was the process expensive, but the home was not generating rent during this period.
Protecting Yourself from Squatters
The best way to protect yourself from squatters is by keeping the home occupied and managed. Squatters look for empty properties to use as temporary homes. As your property manager, we seek to rent the home to qualified tenants as quickly as possible and we keep an eye on how it is being used.
As you can see from Mr. Hawkins’s experience, if you’re managing your properties yourself then you may not have time to adequately watch your investments. Remember, Mr. Hawkins’ mistake was simply that he went on vacation.
Don’t let your real estate investment become a headache. Let us keep qualified tenants in and squatters out.