Understanding Squatters Rights in Washington

Washington State has recently changed their laws in regards to squatter's rights and adverse possession, so it is important to understand what these changes mean. In Washington, a squatter is defined as someone who occupies a vacant property without consent and do not pay rent. It is treated as a civil matter and an eviction must take place. There is one exception to this rule. If you find squatters are living on your property, look for evidence that they broke into the home. A broken lock, a smashed window, or even a damaged door frame is considered illegal forced entry and this turns the civil matter into a criminal matter. Contact your local law enforcement officials if you find this.

You Must Follow Standard Eviction Procedures

In Washington State, you must give all tenants, whether they are squatting or legal tenants, a written eviction notice. As the property owner, you must give them the reason for the eviction and the date they must move out. Many squatters won't accept this notice. You may wish to this letter officially delivered by a third party, much like a subpoena would be. Do not touch any items that belong to the squatter at any time. This can be considered a threat and potentially invalidate an eviction notice. It is important to bring witnesses to verify your conduct if you must interact with squatters in person. If the squatters do not move out, then the eviction can proceed. A hearing will be set and a defense will be allowed to have the squatter discuss why they should be allowed to stay on the property. A judge may issue an order for squatters to pay the property owner for their stay.

What If a Squatter Doesn't Respond?

Many squatters do not respond to a summons, however, and this creates a default judgment. The court will issue an eviction order and law enforcement officials will enforce it. This may include physically removing people from the home. Squatters are given 3 business days to move after the order has been issued. Squatters can take up a lot of time and cost you a lot of money, but you can limit those losses with this information. Evict them properly, inspect for damage, and follow these steps for success.

Posted on Feb 11, 2015


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