Senate Bill 15 was introduced in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Wednesday afternoon.
The bill was drafted after a series of News 5 investigations showing how innocent homeowners are losing their properties to squatters.
As we’ve reported, squatters will generally target a vacant home or house that is unoccupied. They will break in, change the locks and move their belongings inside.
When police are called out to remove the squatters, the homeowners find themselves in a “civil dispute”. Law enforcement officers treat squatting situations much like landlord-tenant relationships which requires a homeowner to go to court and get an eviction order.
The Pikes Peak Association of Realtors testified that in one case, it took 75 days to evict squatters from an elderly woman’s home. The squatters also reportedly caused $7,000 in damages.
The Colorado Association of Realtors also showed support for the bill, but not everyone shares the same viewpoints.
The Defense Bar claims our current laws already address trespassing and vandalism which raises a new question: is this a police enforcement issue?
Lawmakers in the committee also questioned why authorities won’t charge squatters with trespassing.
Nobody from law enforcement appeared before the committee to testify during the hearing Wednesday.
An attorney with Disability Law Colorado also raised concerns over whether the bill would allow “bad” landlords to evict people with disabilities without due process.
It’s important to note that Senate Bill 15 is not meant to address landlord-tenant issues. The bill is aimed at evicting people who do not have a valid lease or own the property they are staying in.
Under SB 15, police would be given immediate power to remove squatters without waiting on a court-ordered eviction. As we’ve reported in the past, evictions can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months execute.
Lawmakers have agreed to “fine tune” the language in the bill.