Squatter's Rights

Colorado Squatter’s Rights

December 16, 2023

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Managing Squatters In Colorado

Squatters – those mysterious figures who move into abandoned or vacant properties – have long been a subject of curiosity and confusion. Many people wonder—and fear—how squatters sometimes end up with legal rights to the property they’ve occupied.  

Squatters’ rights exist in various forms across the United States, including Colorado. The requirements for claiming these rights vary from state to state, making it essential to understand the specific laws in your area. The process to remove a squatter in Colorado differs from the process in other states. 

While you can feel comforted that it is notoriously difficult for a squatter to fulfill all the requirements necessary to make a successful legal claim to your property, it never hurts to be prepared. In this article, we’ll cover Colorado squatters rights and explain how adverse possession works in this state. 


  • Minimum Occupation Required: 18 consecutive years 
  • Property Taxes Required? Optional; 7 years sufficient with color of title 
  • Color of Title Required? Optional; 7 years sufficient with property taxes 

Who Are Squatters? 

A squatter is someone who occupies a property without legal ownership or permission from the property owner. They often move into vacant, abandoned, or neglected properties. Squatters could squat temporarily (e.g., for a few weeks) or for years at a time.  

While the term “squatter” probably summons a certain image in your mind, it’s important to note that not all squatters have nefarious intentions. A squatter could be someone who thought they legally owned a property that has been passed down in their family over many generations, only to find out years later that the title officially belongs to someone else. 

Who Isn’t a Squatter? 

Not everyone who occupies a property without permission is a squatter. For instance, tenants with expired leases are not squatters. Rather, they are “holdover tenants,” or previous tenants who no longer have the right to live in the property. Likewise, trespassers are also not squatters. Criminal trespassers are people who enter onto your private property but do not live there, while squatters actually occupy and live on the vacant property. 

What Are Squatter’s Rights/Adverse Possession? 

Squatter’s rights, also known as adverse possession, refer to the general legal principles that allow squatters to gain ownership of a property through a long period of possession, even without the owner’s permission. While squatter’s rights might seem antiquated today, the principles of adverse possession were established to reward the productive use of land and discourage neglect of properties.  

There is no federal law governing squatter’s rights, but there are legal precedents for them in each state and laws governing some of the requirements to claim adverse possession. Squatters rights in Colorado, therefore, are different from squatters rights in other states. 

Colorado Squatters Rights 

To make a successful claim for adverse possession in Colorado, a squatter must meet one of the following requirements: 

  • Openly and continuously occupy the property for 18 years (CRS § 38-41-101
  • Openly and continuously occupy the property, pay all property taxes, and have color of title for at least seven years (CRS § 38-41-108).  

When someone has “color of title,” this means they have ownership of a property in a nontraditional way, or without having the legal title or deed to the property. According to Colorado law, a squatter can obtain color of title by signing a written document that verifies their good faith belief that they have a claim to the property. 

To claim squatters rights in Colorado squatters must also meet five general requirements: 

  1. Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease or rental agreement with the owner.  
  1. Actual—The squatter must have actively lived in the property for a certain length of time.  
  1. Open and notorious—The squatter’s possession of the property is open and obvious to neighbors or anyone else. They aren’t living there “in secret” or trying to hide their presence.  
  1. Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else. They prevent others from living there like an owner would.  
  1. Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession of the property (seven or 18 consecutive years in Colorado). 

How Does a Squatter Claim Colorado Adverse Possession? 

If a squatter has fulfilled both the squatters rights Colorado law provides as well as the general squatter’s rights principles above, they can file a claim for adverse possession or bring an action to “quiet title.” Quiet title is the legal action to claim the right of possession and ownership of a particular property. 

Note, however, that just because a squatter in Colorado files a claim, this does not mean they will be successful. There are many obstacles to winning an adverse possession case—for instance, the squatter would need to: 

  • Gather ample evidence for their claim (e.g., mail addressed to the property in their name, property tax receipts, evidence that they’ve “beautified” the property, etc.) 
  • File a quiet title complaint with the court 
  • Attend a hearing with you in front of a judge, where they’ll present their case for adverse possession  
  • Successfully convince a judge that they have fulfilled all the state requirements for adverse possession 
  • Receive a judgment for adverse possession to perfect the title 

As you can see, a squatter has an enormous burden of proof when claiming ownership of your property. It is a highly complex process that often requires the squatter to hire an attorney and to have lived in your property for many years. A situation involving squatter’s rights in Colorado is unlikely to escalate to a successful action to quiet title. 

How to Remove a Squatter in Colorado 

In 2018, Colorado approved a bill that allows landowners to remove squatters by simply signing a document. This written document alerts law enforcement that squatters are there without the landowner’s permission. If the squatter has color of title or any other legal reason to occupy the property, the landowner will be liable for any subsequent lawsuits. However, if the squatter does not have a right to remain on the premises or adverse possession Colorado landowners do not need to go through the eviction process and can arrange for the police to remove the squatter within 24 hours (Bill SB 18-015). 

If the above law does not apply to you, you will have to undergo the eviction process to remove the squatter. An adverse possession Colorado case will become invalid through the eviction process. If you find out that a squatter is living in your property, you need to provide proper notice, file a formal eviction complaint in court, and attend (or get your attorney to attend) a hearing to lawfully remove the squatter. 

Here is an overview of the eviction process for squatters in Colorado: 

  1. The owner must serve the squatter a formal eviction notice. Possible evictions notices include: 
    • A ten-day pay or quit notice (for nonpayment of rent) 
    • A ten-day cure or quit notice (for lease violations or for no lease) 
    • A three-day unconditional quit notice (for illegal activity or other “substantial” violations) 
  1. After the notice period has lapsed, the landowner may file a complaint for eviction with the Colorado District or County Court. 
  1. The court will issue a summons, which must be served to the squatter by a third party who is at least 18 years old. 
  1. The squatter has an opportunity to file an answer with the court stating whether they admit or deny the landowner’s allegations and why they believe they have a valid claim to adverse possession. 
  1. The owner must attend a hearing to present evidence of lawful ownership of the property to the judge. 
  1. Upon confirming ownership, the judge will issue a writ of restitution authorizing the sheriff to forcibly remove the squatter. 
  1. The squatter gets 48 hours to vacate the premises. Once the 48 hours are up, the sheriff will arrive to forcibly remove the squatter. 

How to Prevent Squatters in Colorado from Living in Your Vacant Property 

Here are a few practical tips to prevent squatters in Colorado from moving into your vacant property: 

  • Regularly inspect your property. 
  • Make your property appear inhabited during vacancy periods. 
  • Install adequate lighting and security systems to deter unauthorized entry. 
  • Secure all doors, windows, and access points with sturdy locks and barriers. 
  • Post “No Trespassing” signs on the property. 
  • Encourage neighbors to report any suspicious activity. 
  • Consider hiring a property management company to oversee and maintain the property. 
  • If feasible, keep the property in use, even if temporarily, to discourage squatting. 
  • Develop a good relationship with local law enforcement and notify them of the property’s vacancy to increase patrols and response to trespassing. 


Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to understanding the laws that regulate property possession and ownership. However, it’s worth noting that adverse possession laws are unlikely to come into play in most cases. Property neglect to the extent that a squatter could go unnoticed for the required period is rare, emphasizing the importance of vigilance and preventative measures in protecting property rights. 

Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information. 

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