Two Colorado squatters managed to skirt around a court-ordered eviction notice by filing personal bankruptcy, according a local CBS affiliate.Last month, a judge ordered the pair, Veronica Fernandez-Beleta and Jose Rafael Leyva-Caraveo, to turn the property over to the rightful owners.
But before the county sheriff could evict them, they used the one loophole they had left: filing bankruptcy.
“The sheriff’s office will not proceed with an eviction if there is a bankruptcy in question,” Arapahoe County Undersheriff David Walcher told CBS.
It’s another blow for the original owners, Troy Donovan and his wife, who came home after an extended trip to find the house taken over by a new family.
In their eight-month absence, a realtor named Alfonso Carillo allegedly sold the property to the new owners for $5,000. Carillo claimed they could buy the deed under “adverse possession,” an umbrella law for squatters rights that can be invoked if property owners fail to claim their land for a certain stretch of time. The law varies state by state, but requires 18 years of possession in Colorado.
Since the squatters filed bankruptcy, a court will have to determine ownership of the house all over again, a process that could take up to a few months, according to CBS.
Abandoned homes are easy targets for schemes like these, and foreclosed properties are even more susceptible with no homeowners around to defend their turf. In the Donovans’ case, they lucked out when neighbours became suspicious of the new owners and tipped them off.
As with any extended vacation or time away from your home, it’s wise to have friends, family or neighbours check in on the property from time to time.