Protecting homeowners from squatters

It seemed like common sense to some Washington homeowners that law enforcement could remove illegal trespassers taking over private homes. But after hearing about increasing problems with illegal occupations, newly proposed legislation from Sen. Hans Zeiger would provide police clear authority to remove squatters and bar them from returning to the property.


The proposal is scheduled to receive a public hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee at 10 a.m. Thursday.


“I’ve heard from many property owners all over Washington who shared horrifying stories of unauthorized trespassing on their property and the illegal activities associated with it,” said Zeiger, R-Puyallup, who sponsored similar legislation in 2016 to begin addressing the issue. “This is a problem everywhere, for people from rural, urban and suburban communities alike.”


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


“Lawmakers from both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives came together with landlords, tenant-rights advocates, law enforcement and others to address previous concerns and find a solution,” said Zeiger. “I am pleased with the preliminary work done last year that will enable us to take action during the 2017 session. So many Washingtonians are counting on us to act.”


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