Dayna and Troy Donovan of Littleton couldn’t get back into their house because squatters had taken up residence. The Donovans, and their two young daughters had been living in a relative’s basement in Greely until they could get squatters out of their home – a six-month ordeal for them.
The Donovan’s had moved to Indiana in August 2011 for a temporary stay. Both were unemployed and two month’s behind in their mortgage. Troy found a temporary job with a race team in Indiana. When they left, they locked and secured the home they had lived in for 13 years.
In March 2012, a neighbor informed Dayna someone had been living there during the winter. Lights were blazing and the heat was running. Dayna immediately called the police to check on their home.
What the police found were another couple living in the Donovan’s home. The couple claimed they had paperwork from the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, an affidavit of “Adverse Possession” and they had bought the house.
On July 12th, 2012, a judge in Arapahoe County ruled the two people living in the Donovan’s home had to move out in 48 hours. The Donovan’s were finally ready to move out of the basement, and back into their home when, on July 16th the two living in the home filed for bankruptcy. The sheriff’s department couldn’t proceed with an eviction when there’s a bankruptcy in question.
During the six-month ordeal, the Donovan’s were still dealing with their mortgage company ($20,000 behind in payments) and on August 28, 2012 – more than a year from when they first left for Indiana, they were able to move back into their home.
Adverse Possession is a method to acquire title to land that’s owned by someone else through ‘use’ of the property. Adverse Possession differs from state to state. In Colorado, people who stake a claim to a property or land for a determined amount of years and without dispute may be able to become the owners. Also known as “squatters”, dozens of homes in Colorado have been taken over by Adverse Possession squatters in just the last few months.
A beautiful luxury home in Castle Rock assessed at $1 million became home to a family of squatters. The home was under foreclosure and listed as a short sale when the squatters moved in. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department investigated and found a sign in the window stating the home belonged to the squatter. In this particular case, the man was arrested on charges related to the illegal occupation of the Castle Rock home with burglary, attempted theft, criminal trespass and violation of bond. He had already been arrested on trespassing and filing false documents on another home in Larkspur.
Larry Asbery called the Adams County Sheriff’s Department earlier this year telling them someone sold his house while he had been in the hospital. Larry had liver problems, his kidneys had failed and he had been hospitalized for several months. He thought the trespassers would be thrown out of his house and he’d move back in. Police normally tell the owner there’s nothing they can do because it’s a civil matter. Larry had to hire an attorney and start eviction proceedings. After stressfully fighting to regain his home, he finally got the house back. Shortly after moving back into his home, Larry died, from natural causes, albeit the stress didn’t help.
Squatters are moving into vacant homes all across America. Many of the homes were broken into, used for rave parties and vandalized beyond recognition. Other vacant homes or homes in foreclosure were broken into by opportunists. These people seize the opportunity to live in a home. They’ll show a fake lease and it takes the owners months to evict the squatters. Some tenants think they’ve leased a home legally only to find out scam artists took their deposits and had no claim to rent. Websites continually advertise great deals on rentals when, in fact, the homes are in foreclosure or vacant.
If you’ve been foreclosed on, try not to move out. Until the bank forecloses, you own the home, even if you’ve missed a lot of payments. If you do move out, notify the local police and the utilities companies (electric and water) that the house will be vacant. Unfortunately, this won’t stop the squatters as most will show the utility companies an ID and fake lease agreement and have the utilities turned on – but at least you’ve notified them.
If you’re going to be out of town, let your neighbors know, and have someone check on your home. One woman was gone five days to visit her daughter. When she returned, a man had moved into her house and had changed the locks. He had posted No Trespassing signs in her yard! The woman was forced to hire an attorney to begin legal proceedings to regain possession of her home. He wasn’t charged with a crime and moved out after several months. He’s probably living in another home doing the same thing – declaring the home had been abandoned and he was there under Adverse Possession. He’ll lose the case of course, but in the meantime he has a place to stay at no cost.
Keith A. Gantenbein, Jr. is a Colorado foreclosure defense attorney located in Denver and servicing all of Colorado. He also handles bankruptcies, mortgage negotiations, lender liability, real estate, civil litigation, contracts and landlord/ tenant. If you think you will be facing foreclosure, or are in the foreclosure process, or have had a wrongful foreclosure, contact Keith Gantenbein at (303) 618-2122 for a one-hour consultation where he will discuss your situation and go over all you.