Squatters bill sent to the Governor's Desk

By Jessica Kuhn, The Colorado Springs Business Journal

May 11, 2018

A bill aimed at protecting homeowners’ rights against squatters is now awaiting the governor’s signature after receiving approval from both houses. 

“With such strong bipartisan support, I would be flabbergasted if [the governor] vetoed the bill,” said Rep. Larry Liston. “This piece of legislation is going to protect homeowners, property owners, and it’s a great protection for the deployed military, who are homeowners.” 

Senate Bill 15 permits law enforcement to remove unwanted guests who are unable to provide documentation, such as a signed lease agreement for the property, without an eviction process.

“We have a lot of deployed military here in the Springs, and while they are away serving our country, it’s only right we do something to protect their most valuable asset, which is typically their home,” Liston said.

The bill also has been supported by area Realtors, including the Pikes Peak Association of REALTORS Association. 

“This is a real victory for landlords in Colorado,” Alex Yoder, director of residential management at Dorman Real Estate Services, said in an email. “This bill unbinds the hands of private property owners, when it comes to removing squatters who maliciously attempt to steal the right of possession through force and dishonesty.”  

Yoder believes the bill is necessary because verbal leases are legal.

“Police officers would not — and should not be expected to — serve as judge and jury on site,” he said. “How are they supposed to know who’s telling the truth? Thanks to this bill, there is now a formal procedure that includes appropriate court involvement and expedited due process, indemnifies the police department, and is balanced enough to ensure dishonest landlords cannot fall into a position of abuse as well.” 

Four Republican state lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Gardner, Sen. Owen Hill, Rep. Dave Williams and Liston, all of Colorado Springs, sponsored the Protecting Homeowners and Deployed Military bill.

Before it was sent to Gov. John Hickenlooper, there were a few issues with the bill the two houses, or parties, had to agree upon, Liston said. 

“One was in the senate version it would be a criminal offense to squat or illegally be in somebody’s house, but in the house version, we made it a civil offense,” he said. “The other issue was we — the Republicans — wanted the process to be handled as quickly as possible. In other words, the homeowner should not have to wait for a judge to issue an order and drag it out a week or two, and that instead it be handled within a day or two.”

Because this year’s session has concluded, Hickenlooper has 30 days from when he received the bill to sign or veto it before it automatically becomes a law.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. It is the Pikes Peak Association of REALTORS, not the Pikes Peak Real Estate Association.