What do we do if we are supposed to be closing on our house and have just found out that a squatter has moved in?

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What do we do if we are supposed to be closing on our house and have just found out that a squatter has moved in?

So we are supposed to close the deal tomorrow, only to find out that someone has moved into our house. We had the inspectors come, we have looked at it, and they were not there before. Sometime in the last week, someone just decided that they will move in. Can we call the police and have him removed? He never had permission to be there and I also believe he has padlocked the door.

Asked on March 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Definitely call the police as the first step. If they conclude that he is a trespasser and broke in, they may well remove and, possibly, arrest him.

Be warned: if the squatter tries to claim some sort of legal right to be there (e.g. "the owners said I could;" "I paid rent"; etc.), they may choose to not intervene, since the police do not get involved if--plausibly--it is a civil dispute between parties. If that's the case, you may need to go through the legal eviction process, which can take a few weeks. The one thing you *can't* do in that case is lock him out yourself--that's against the law.

So try the police and they may well, based on what you right, remove him. (Though you may need the current owner to call if you do so before closing--you don't own the home yet and don't have a right to it; he may also need to confirm he did not give permission to stay there.) Just be ready to move to the eviction process if necessary.


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