Stronger protections against squatters approved by Legislature

Washington homeowners will have stronger protections against squatters after legislation sponsored by Sen. Hans Zeiger today cleared the Washington State Legislature. Zeiger’s legislation, which now heads to the governor to be signed into law, gives law enforcement clear authority to evict squatters and bar them from returning to the property they had illegally occupied.

“We’ve heard many horrifying stories of squatters taking over private homes, locking out the owners and causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage,” said Zeiger, R-Puyallup. “Law enforcement told us they needed additional legal authority to take action. They will now have the tools they need to work with private property owners to evict illegal occupants and prevent them from returning.”

The measure follows high-profile examples of squatters taking over homes in Pierce County and statewide in recent years. In many cases law-enforcement officials did not feel they had adequate legal authority to remove illegal occupants, forcing homeowners to pursue lengthy and costly evictions.

The legislation grants law enforcement clear authority to remove squatters from private property and order them to remain off the premises. It creates a “request to remove trespassers” form for property owners to establish that people on the property did not have permission and had refused to leave upon request.

“Many Washingtonians have suffered extreme property damage, emotional distress and incurred significant costs when strangers take over their home,” said Zeiger.

The bill passed on the 102nd day of the Legislature’s 105-day regular session.