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New Statute to Evict Squatters

Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

Imagine coming home from a long vacation to find someone living in your home. You have never met him or her before and have no idea who he or she is. What do you do next?

Most would call the police, but what happens when that stranger says he or she has a right to live in your home? If this happens, most police departments will direct you to the civil courts to file an FED (forcible entry and detainer) action. Unfortunately for you, an FED action can last up to a month before it is resolved in court, meaning that stranger is living in your home for another month.

The Colorado Legislature recently passed a bill to help homeowners with this problem. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2018.[1] The law provides more protections to homeowners against strangers or squatters taking over a vacant residence, and it provides a much quicker process to evict the squatter from residential premises. According to the new law, a residential premises is a

dwelling unit and any immediately surrounding property under the exclusive control of the same person. The new law does not provide protections to commercial buildings.

Squatters are those who “move in to” vacant homes; some squatters actually change the locks and start utilities in their own names. Under the new law, the legal name for these people are unauthorized persons. An unauthorized person is defined as someone “who occupies an uninhabited or vacant residential premises without any current or prior agreement or consent of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner, whether written or oral, concerning the use of the residential premises.” An unauthorized person cannot be related to the property owner; cannot be someone the property owner received money or value from previously; cannot be someone the property owner entered into a written or oral written agreement with; or cannot be someone who was previously given permission to enter and remain on the premises.

The new law provides a much quicker process for removing the unauthorized person than the traditional FED process. After making a required demand to the unauthorized person, the property owner can file a complaint and motion for temporary mandatory injunction in county court. Once the complaint and motion are filed with the county court, the county court must conduct a hearing “as soon as practicable, but in no event later than the next court day after the filing[.]” The unauthorized person must be properly served notice of the complaint, motion, and time and place of the hearing.

At the hearing, the county court judge will consider the allegations in the complaint, motion, and any other evidence by the property owner. The unauthorized person may appear at the hearing and present his/her own evidence as well. The judge will order a temporary mandatory injunction and issue a writ of restitution if it finds the occupant is an unauthorized person. The sheriff’s office will have twenty-four hours after receiving the writ to remove the unauthorized occupant from the residence. So, a month-long process (for a traditional FED) can be shortened to less than a week under this new law.

Because this law is so new, it is unclear how some courts will interpret the terms and specifics of the statute. The statute contains several requirements before a complaint can be filed in county court. If you come to this unfortunate situation, give us a call so we can handle the problem as quickly as possible.

[1] See C.R.S. § 13-40.1-101 et seq.

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