New state law helps landlords to remove squatters
TACOMA, Wash. - It seems like common sense, but Washington finally has a law to help landlords remove squatters from their property - without going through the lengthy eviction process.
The new law was inspired by a situation that confronted Bob and Rose Nelson from the Tacoma area. They’d owned a house for years, but the Nelsons suddenly found themselves at the mercy of squatters who they say trashed the place.
“They tore sheet rock off and did something with the plumbing,” Rose Nelson said. “They nailed holes in the cracks, in the walls, patterns in the ceiling. There were just holes everywhere."
The couple said the squatters got the house keys from a tenant they evicted. They called the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, but were told the deputies found no sign of forced entry and wouldn't interfere in what seemed to be a civil matter.
“She had tried repeatedly to get law enforcement involved. They weren't able to ultimately remove squatters from the property,” said Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup.
Zeiger set to work to change the law. He crafted a way for homeowners to file a declaration that a trespasser - not a tenant - is on their property. Armed with that, law enforcement can remove the person immediately, without the lengthy eviction process.
“It's a real triumph for our legislative process because it was a real problem here that needed to be addressed,” Zeiger said.
The Nelsons eventually got the squatters to go. Repairs to the home are still underway, but they know they've at least helped fix a gaping hole in the legal system.
“I'm excited and hoping that this is now going to get the help for other people like us that have had their properties taken over,” Nelson said.
With the new law signed by the governor just this week, it now takes effect in 90 days.