Olympia gives landlords a new weapon to fight squatters

Olympia gives landlords a new weapon to fight squatters

A house across the street from KIRO Radio has experienced frequent squatters. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

Squatters have a new foe to keep them from occupying private property — paperwork.

That’s essentially the solution that lawmakers in Olympia have crafted to solve the issue of squatters taking over properties across Washington state. A bill spearheaded by Senator Hans Zeiger (R-Puyallup) passed the House and the Senate and is on its way to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk.

“In the end, there was unanimous support for the bill in both the House and the Senate, and we are looking forward to the governor signing this bill very soon,” Zeiger said.

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“Help is on the way,” he said. “I’ve even gotten calls from homeowners who have squatters on their property as we speak. And they are wondering when this bill will take effect.”

That will be within 90 days from when Inslee signs the bill into law.

Squatters bill

Zeiger said the bill took time to draft. He and fellow lawmakers got landlords in the same room as tenants’ rights groups. Together, they came up with a solution.

Zeiger’s bill establishes a “request to remove trespassers” form that building owners can give to police to evict unauthorized tenants. The form puts the owner under penalty of perjury when they claim that someone is occupying their property illegally.

“We do protect the rights of legitimate tenants on property, but for people who are squatting and have no business being on that property, we make it clear that they will face removal,” Zeiger said.

The legal document streamlines the eviction process when it comes to squatters, providing police the ability to oust unauthorized tenants once it is signed.

“Right now, if a property owner finds that somebody has moved onto their property without their permission, whether somebody was handed keys from a former tenant, or someone who comes into an unoccupied rental property and now they are occupying it …” Zeiger said. “Right now a property owner would have to go through a costly and lengthy process. We needed to give more tools to property owners to uphold their rights.”

“There are horrific stories on private property in every kind of community in our state — rural, urban suburban — where there’s drug activity, and tens of thousands of dollars in damage to private property, and law enforcement can do very little to intervene unless some other crime is committed,” he said.