Homeowners call them “criminals”, but law enforcement refer to them as squatters.
They break into your home, move their stuff in and refuse to leave!
For months, News 5 Investigates has examined why law enforcement agencies across Colorado are powerless to remove squatters without an eviction. Many viewers have asked Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross why police won’t charge the squatters with burglary, home invasion or trespassing.
Under the law, a home invasion is defined as someone breaking into a home while the homeowners are inside. Meanwhile, a burglary is defined as entering a building with then intent to commit another crime, such as theft.
Then there’s issue of trespassing. In order for police to file trespassing charges, the homeowner must be willing to file charges and call police within a reasonable amount of time.
In squatting situations News 5 Investigates has researched, squatters took over homes that were unoccupied. We’re told the legal homeowners were either out of town for an extended period of time or were deployed overseas for several months.
When police get called to squatting situations, they often find themselves in a sticky situation. The homeowner will argue they have legal rights to the house (which they do), but so will the squatters!
Unfortunately, if there’s a case in which two parties are claiming rights to a property, police will often refer this matter to civil court.
“It’s as if someone took a homeless camp and put it in my house,” homeowner Roland Hawkins told News 5 last fall.
After returning from a bike tour in Utah, Hawkins found random homeless people had made themselves at home in his house.
To make matters worse, the squatters refused to leave.
“We have another week before we legally have to be out of here,” one squatter told Hawkins.
Law enforcement told Hawkins they couldn’t do anything without an eviction order, which forced him to go to court just to get full legal rights back to his home.
“Clearly there is a gap in the law and it’s outrageous,” House District 15 Rep. Dave Williams said.
Williams was the first lawmaker to respond to our initial investigation. He’s now pushing for change.
“We are going to draft language up that closes these loopholes and punishes these criminal squatters for damaging the lives of taxpayers and homeowners,” he said.
District 12 Sen. Bob Gardner is also outraged by what we uncovered.
“Legislatively, we need to do something and we need to find the right solution and that’s what we are set out to do,” he said.
District 10 Sen. Owen Hill and House District 16 Rep. Larry Liston are also sponsoring this bill they hope will send squatters packing.
Under the proposal, law enforcement would have the authority to immediately remove squatters. The bill also goes a step further by making it a class 1 misdemeanor if the squatters alter or damage the homeowner’s property.
If the bill passes, it would take effect July 1, 2018.