The Basics of Colorado Abandoned Property Law

Check out Jerry’s guide to Colorado abandoned property law—we’ll go over what you should do with abandoned homes, vehicles, personal property, and more.
Written by Kara Vanderbeek
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
background
The laws that govern abandoned property in Colorado can get pretty complex—but we’re here to give you a simple breakdown of all the important details. If you’re looking for your own abandoned or unclaimed property, the
Great Colorado Payback
can help you track it down.
Whether you’ve found an abandoned vehicle on your street, your previous tenant left behind all of their furniture, or your neighbors are slowly taking over the abandoned property next door, there are state laws concerning what steps need to be taken next.
Here to run through all the essentials is
licensed broker super app
and
policy-shopping
genie
Jerry
. We’ll go over what counts as abandoned property, what you should do if you come across abandoned property, and how to reclaim your own abandoned items. Let’s jump in!
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Colorado abandoned home law

Maybe you’ve come across an abandoned property and you want to move in there yourself, or you’ve noticed a squatter making themself at home at an old property down the road. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand the relevant laws regarding abandoned homes in your state.

What qualifies as an abandoned home in Colorado? 

Generally speaking, determining whether a home is abandoned in Colorado depends on a tenant’s communication with a lienholder of an intent to abandon and the amount of time that the property has been out of use.
For example, while your ski chalet in Breckenridge or Aspen may be out of use for consecutive months out of the year, it cannot be claimed as abandoned unless you have otherwise expressed an interest to leave the property and are no longer living on the premises
Even in circumstances where the above criteria are met, the property still cannot be considered abandoned, unless:
  • The tenant has not contacted the landlord for at least 30 days, and;
  • There are no communications or circumstances which would indicate that the tenant did not wish to vacate the property
On the other hand, if you’ve abandoned your property for a significant period, someone else may be able to acquire your property through an adverse possession claim. However, before the claim can be made, certain criteria must be met. 

What is an adverse possession claim?

Under Colorado law, an adverse possession claim is a legal principle that allows a squatter to claim ownership of a property. To make a successful claim, they must meet five criteria:
  1. Hostile ownership: The squatter must demonstrate intent to take possession of the property from the original owner
  2. Actual ownership: The squatter must be physically present on the property
  3. Continuous ownership: The squatter must have lived at the property continuously for 18 years or have paid 7 years of consistent property tax payments to make a claim
  4. Exclusive ownership: The squatter must be the sole occupant of the property
  5. Open and notorious ownership: The squatter must make it apparent to the general public that they are occupying the property
If all 5 criteria are met, and the original owner doesn’t take action against the squatter within the allotted period, the squatter can be legally granted possession of the abandoned home!

Colorado abandoned vehicle law

Now that you know the laws surrounding abandoned properties in your states, let’s discuss the legal principles regarding abandoned vehicles. 

What qualifies as an abandoned vehicle in Colorado? 

There are three specific instances in which the statutory protocol for abandoned vehicles in Colorado differ; abandoned on private property, abandoned at a repair shop, or abandoned on public property
The Colorado DMV
goes through all the nitty gritty details, but the points below provide a general overview of what qualifies as an abandoned vehicle:
  • The vehicle has been left unattended on private property for 24+ hours or public property for 48+ hours
  • The vehicle has been left on public or private property without the property owner's consent for 48+ hours
  • The vehicle has been left at a repair shop for 5 days following the last good faith effort made to contact the owner

What happens to abandoned vehicles in Colorado?

So what happens to the vehicles that have been left behind? In Colorado, these vehicles can be sold to a licensed car dealer, wholesaler, or auction dealer within 60 days of being found. Colorado vehicles may also be disposed of under the same timeline. 
If you find an abandoned vehicle and you’re unsure what steps to take, you can contact the police to have the vehicle filed as abandoned and towed from the property.
MORE: The 5 best Colorado road trips 
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Colorado abandoned personal property law

While it may seem unlikely that someone would leave behind their personal possessions, abandoned personal property is more common than you may think. For example, renters may leave behind belongings that they no longer wish to hold on to in housing units. In such cases, landlords must follow the Colorado laws pertaining to abandoned personal property.

What qualifies as abandoned personal property in Colorado?

Abandoned personal property can fall into a variety of different categories. Here are a few examples:
  • Bank accounts
  • Gift cards
  • Utility deposits
  • Paychecks
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Personal belongings
In some cases, it’s obvious that personal property has been abandoned by the owner. Nevertheless, you must follow the
Colorado personal property laws
and:
  • Wait at least 30 days from the date you last had contact with the tenant to dispose of the property, and;
  • Continue to store the property if you have any reason to think the tenant has not abandoned the property

What should I do with abandoned personal property in Colorado?

If you intend to dispose of the abandoned personal property, you must provide the owner with at least 15 days' written notice before selling, giving away, or throwing out the belongings.  
If, on the other hand, you intend to store the belongings, consider storing them in a safe place. While you won’t be responsible for damages to the property, you may be liable if you handle the item negligently or damage it on purpose. 
If you have any questions or concerns regarding how to handle specific abandoned personal property, consider contacting a lawyer. Not only will you protect yourself from possible liability, but you’ll be able to get advice regarding what steps you should take with the property. 
Pro Tip When in doubt, contact a lawyer to learn what you should do with abandoned property.

How can I find my abandoned property?

If you’re hoping to find some lost property, there are a few different things you can do to track it down:
  • Visit the
    Great Colorado Payback
    , the system that returns lost or forgotten items back to Coloradans. The website has returned millions of dollars worth of lost property!
  • If you’re looking for money, check the national
    Missing Money
    database.
  • If you still can’t locate your unclaimed or abandoned property, you can try contacting a specific government office. They may have specific access to certain properties that other payback systems don’t. 

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FAQ

The
Great Colorado Payback
can locate your unclaimed or abandoned property for you. Check out
Colorado abandoned property laws
for further details.
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