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On May 10, 2017, Governor Inslee signed a new law, which will allow property owners in certain circumstances to have squatters removed from their property by law enforcement immediately, rather than having to navigate the lengthy eviction process.
SB 5388, which passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, took effect July 23, 2017.
Specifically, the law allows property owners to file a declaration that a trespasser – not a tenant – is on their property. This allows law enforcement to remove the person immediately, unless that person can prove they were a legal tenant within the past 12 months.
A property owner, or their agent, may initiate a law enforcement investigation and request the removal of an unauthorized person or persons. They must declare:
- They are the owner of the premises
- The individuals entered and remain illegally on the property
- That the individual(s) were not a tenant at the property in the past 12 months
- The individual(s) were not authorized to enter or remain on the property
- That they have demanded that the unauthorized individual(s) vacate the property, but the individual(s) failed to do so
You can download a free copy of the Request to Remove Trespasser form here.
Any false declarations made by an owner or their agent under this law may bring a cause of action against them for false swearing or for making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, both of which are gross misdemeanors, and the declarant may be held liable for actual damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Law enforcement must provide the individual(s) with a reasonable opportunity to secure and present any credible evidence, which the officer must consider, showing that the person or persons are tenants, legal occupants, or the guests or invitees of tenants or legal occupants.
If it is determined by law enforcement that the individual(s) are on the property illegally, they may then proceed with removing them from the premises, with or without an arrest being made, and order them to remain off the premises or be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.