Anti-squatters bill on its way to Hickenlooper

Author: Marianne Goodland - May 9, 2018 - Updated: May 9, 2018

squattersThe waning sun shines its sunlight on a home at 2924 Drakestone Drive in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2010. The house appeared worn down compared to the other homes in the neighborhood. A mother and daughter duped a pubic trustee and have been living in the house rent free for more than a year. (The Gazette file photo)

A Colorado legislative measure born out of frustration with the process of evicting those who illegally take over someone’s home is on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signing.

Senate Bill 15 would set up a faster process for getting “squatters” — people who move into a home without homeowner authorization — evicted from the premises. The bill arose from complaints about drug traffic and other criminal activity in homes taken over by squatters in eastern El Paso County.

Ryan Parsell is the state’s deputy treasurer and a resident of an eastern Colorado Springs neighborhood. He has seen what squatters can do to a home and a neighborhood.

Parsell told a state House of Representatives committee that one of his neighbors passed away a couple of years ago, and squatters soon moved in. Law enforcement told him there was nothing they could do because it was a civil matter.

Throughout the next five months, Parsell said he watched as 35 different people lived in the house, selling drugs, operating a prostitution and theft ring, and vandalizing cars in the neighborhood.

“Every sound was a reminder that squatter laws don’t work,” Parsell said.

It took five months for the first eviction notice to show up, and that night, Parsell recalled, the people living in the house stripped out and sold the appliances, copper wire and furniture.

His story is not unusual. The bill’s sponsors — Sens. Bob Gardner and Owen Hill and Reps. Dave Williams and Larry Liston, all of Colorado Springs — pointed out that squatters leave homes with thousands of dollars in damage. Squatters can also pose an acute problem for deployed service members, according to witnesses who testified in several hearings throughout the session.

Senate Bill 15 will give homeowners or their authorized agents the ability to seek a county court order that would direct law enforcement to evict any unauthorized people living in the home.

Under the bill, the hearing could take place within two days, and the eviction could take place within 24 hours of the court order.

The bill won a unanimous approval from the House on April 19. But it hit a couple of roadblocks after that, leading to two conference committees in the past three weeks.

Liston told Colorado Politics that the remaining sticking points included whether the matter would be a criminal or civil one (it’s civil, in the final version), and who would handle the eviction, police or sheriffs (sheriffs, in the final version).

On Tuesday, the two chambers reached an agreement, and Senate Bill 15 won unanimous approval in both.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.