Imagine coming home after being out of town for a few months only to find that your house has been taken over by squatters who claim they now own the property. Now imagine waiting eight months for a court to finally kick those squatters out. One family in Colorado doesn’t have to imagine this horror story because it’s their true story.
This all goes back more than a year, when the husband landed a job that required him to relocate to Indiana. He moved away and the rest of the family followed last August. They tried to sell their home of 12 years before leaving, but opted to just turn off the utilities and winterize the house, with the goal of revisiting the real estate market later.
Not long after they had departed for Indiana, a neighbor contacted them to say there was a new family living in the house.
The couple came back and tried to talk to convince the squatters that they were the rightful owners of the house, but to no avail. The squatters claimed they had paid $5,000 to a third party — a former real estate agent whose license had been revoked — for a deed of “adverse possession.”
For those just coming into this whole adverse possession thing, it’s a hold-over from a time when people who went broke would just abandon property they owned — often failed farms — because they could no longer maintain it. Adverse possession laws, which are different in every state, allowed people to take control of abandoned property on the condition that they maintain it and continue to pay utilities and taxes.
Adverse possession has had a renaissance of sorts in recent years as people who think they are clever have tried to use it as a way to lay claim to houses abandoned by people who couldn’t pay their mortgages. What most of these people don’t understand is that adverse possession laws all give some sort of grace period for the rightful owner to reclaim their property. So even though there is an inventory of empty houses out there, the property is almost always still owned by a lender that foreclosed on the property.
That isn’t the case here, as the actual homeowners were still in possession of the home — just living a few hundred miles away. They have been living in a family member’s basement for the last several months.
“I told her ‘What you’re doing is wrong, it’s illegal. I would really like you to move out of the home or we will take legal action against you,’” the wife tells CBS Denver.
Yesterday, a judge in Colorado finally sided with the homeowners and gave the squatters 48 hours to get out.
“We get to get out of the basement, get a full home to live in,” the wife says about the ruling. “A home we created and worked very hard in as well.”