From the Forum – Anyone with experience evicting squatters?


Anyone with experience evicting squatters?

“Long story short, my ex-wife and I still own a property in DC but have not resided in it since 2009. She no longer lives in the area and I’m moving back from MoCo to DC at the end of this year. It’s come to her attention that there has been someone living in our house since this time last year. House was due to be foreclosed on but the bank is in no hurry to do that so they told us we could take take up residence in it again if we wanted while she works out a loan modification.

We’ve spoken with MPD and they said if we arrange a time, they will send a couple cars with us to evict whoever is living in the place. Having helped my parents run an apartment complex in Chicago back in the day, I know it’s not going to be that easy. She is going to show up with the cops, I will show up at the same time with a locksmith and then arrange for a security company to install a system.

Aside from that, what else should we be aware of and take steps to. I suggested to my ex that she send a certified letter to whoever is living there announcing our intent to take back the property by such and such date and they should vacate beforehand or be evicted. I’m also wondering if I should show up with a couple of mover-types to get any contents inside out to the curb.

Anyone else have to go through something like this?”

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40 Comment

  • If I were you, I would do what you plan to do and leave it at that. Sending a letter in advance might get the people to move out. But it might also inspire them to trash your place before doing so – since I doubt they will be psyched about having to leave. If you are worried about them losing possessions, make an arrangement for them to come back another time to pick up whatever they can’t take with them the day of the eviction. Have the cops there that day as well.

  • Ugh, good luck! Agreed that surprise is your weapon here (as if squatters could be surprised somebody was going to kick them out!). One piece of advice: call the recorder of deeds, DCRA and maybe the tax office to make sure that nobody has filed bogus paperwork trying to take “ownership” of your property. D.C. has loopholes you could drive a truck through when it comes to allowing people to files documents on a property’s behalf, and we all know how hard it is to throw somebody out on their a** in this city. There are lots of scams out there (quit claim deeds, etc.) that D.C. makes EXTREMELY easy to perpetrate if you aren’t watching like a hawk. If the squatters have even a bogus piece of paper that was on file with a D.C. agency the cops might not be able to do anything.

  • So, if I read it correctly, these folks never had a lease or paid you rent? It’s not an eviction, then, per se. You are removing trespassers from your property. I’m not sure the time period that would have to elapse before they could initiate adverse possession proceedings against you. They’d have to prove that there were exclusively, openly and notoriously living there, you knew about it and you did nothing to stop them (for the period of time defined by statute.) Their case would be helped if they paid for improvements, performed maintenance and so forth. I’d seek legal advice for this. Don’t leave it to the MPD to advise you on property and title law.

    • We’ve done that as well. For DC, it is 15 years for squatters to claim any kind of right on a property. As I just posted, there are zero utilities in any one’s name. The power is most likely being spliced in. The water is being subjugated. They would only have a case if they thought they had a legit lease with a “landlord” (who is definitely not us) and had utilities in their name and thus we would have to deal with TOPA laws. Not the case here now. I posted this plea for help last week and have since got a lot of things in order. But I’m still always looking for advice as I’m the boots on the ground guy dealing with this. Thanks again!

  • Thanks for the advice folks. We have actually checked with DCRA and the tax office and we’re in the clear there. The biggest things we have going for us is that there are zero utilities in anyone else’s name on the property. In fact, the water was still in my ex-wife’s name and there are ZERO power utilities in anyone else’s name for that property according to PEPCO. With a balance still in her name, she had the water util go out, shut off water and lock the meter box. The next day, someone went down to the office and paid the bill, thus the water util was required to turn water back on even though my ex-wife said she no longer resides there.

    Thus, that sets precedence that the inhabitants are squatters. I’ve talked to the neighbors next door, introduced myself and let them know that those are squatters next door. They told me there is an older woman and a man in a wheelchair in there as a Metro assistance van comes by every now and then for a pick up. Because of that one fact, I plan on going there tomorrow, knocking on the door and letting them know I am giving them the courtesy of vacating in two weeks time and take their possessions with them. Else we will be showing up at the end of the month with MPD, locksmith and movers to take their stuff to the curb. I will be video recording the encounter and letting them know that it is being recorded.

    I’ve also alerted the Bates Area Association of our intentions. We are completely prepared that this property will be trashed. I assume our appliances are gone as well. But short term, we just want to retake immediate possession and work on restoring the property and having it be a proud residence for the changing neighborhood.

    • Are you on Bates Street, by chance? If so, I think I may know the house you’re referring to, as I’m in the neighborhood. Best of luck!

    • This is a real pickle. Let us know how it all turns out. Best of luck!

    • I’m a lawyer, but not DC barred and don’t practice in this area, so take this with a grain of salt. I would be concerned about giving them two weeks to vacate. It gives them time to mount a fight against being kicked out – whether they have any legitimate claim to the property or not. You don’t need them getting someone – e.g. local clergy, local reporter, ANC commissioner, etc – to take up their cause and turn this around to make you look like the bad guy for kicking an elderly couple out of the house they’ve lived in for years (yes, they are trespassing squatters, but this thing can be twisted to make you look bad). Giving them two weeks also makes them seem like they are legitimately occupying the property. You don’t generally tell people breaking the law they have two weeks to stop doing it. I’d show up with a list of shelters or other DC services that can provide them with assistance, but I’d get them out as soon as you first make contact with them. I applaud your willingness to be so civil, but it might backfire.

      • Oh good point, I can totally see them as the sob story on the 5:30 news. If they are savvy enough to do that, of course. But you don’t know and that’s the issue.

        • The flip side to this is we also don’t want to be the heartless assholes who show up unannounced to throw a wheelchair-bound person out on the the street. That could also easily turn into a worse case for us as well as supportive neighbors.

          • One way or another, someone is the bad guy here. In reality, it is them for squatting in your property. If they did try to turn you into the bad guys, who cares? Are you public figures that would have your reputation ruined? People will eventually forget. You have the law on your side and you are in the right. It doesn’t matter what kind of infirmity they may have. They don’t belong there. End of story. You have to get tough about this or else it could end up costing so much more if they decide to trash the house before the leave.

    • You are going to tell them they have two weeks to leave? If they have super shady friends and/or relatives, that is enough time to take all of the copper piping and trash the place, if it isn’t already. I would be careful about going alone. Your neighbors may have said only 2 people are there, but you really don’t know and what they may have equip themselves with as a precaution. You need to set up some kind of surveillance when you get there because, like I said, 2 weeks is a good amount of time for people to do a lot of damage.

  • Out of curiosity, was the property simply left vacant and uninhabited after you or your ex-wife last lived there, or have there been renters living there since then, or any sort of management company looking after it? Sounds like a very strange situation, dealing with squatters. Best of luck to you.

    • We moved out of the DC area about five years ago. The first year, we had a tenant in there who was a dream tenant. After she moved out after buying her own place, we put it on the market during the really bad recession. Obviously it didn’t sell. Not to get into all the dirty details but it was left vacant for probably the last two years. I would go by it every now and then but stopped doing so after a while.

  • I would also suggest not giving any notice. You can be 100% legit but they can still screw around with you for months with all kinds of claims, as well as having bad friends strip & destroy the place. It took me 10 months to evict a tenant once because she gamed every possible niche.

    Show up with police & movers and a list of homeless resources. They know they are in the wrong and expect to be evicted.

  • I really want to know how this turns out.

  • I would be careful about relying upon the word of any individual officer that this can happen. MPD has an absolute prohibition on participating in evictions and I would check with a District Commander or someone at the Lieutenant or Captain level to confirm that this would be the removal of someone committing Unlawful Entry versus they’re non-paying tenants. If neither you, nor your ex-wife have rented the property and you have tried to have the utilities shut off, I’d file a report for unlawful entry beforehand so there’s a record that you’ve made a criminal complaint.

    I’d also suggest contacting the Office of the Attorney General for an opinion or advice beforehand. You don’t want to run into the issue of calling out a locksmith, paying them and then having an MPD supervisor believe this is an eviction.

    • Thanks for the advice. We have talked to the local MPD district office about this several times. That said, we also are taking everything they say with a grain of salt. We are getting our paperwork in order to show we are still the legal owners of the property and that this is NOT an eviction (which invokes TOPA laws at that point) but rather unlawful entry. Filing a criminal complaint sounds like a great idea beforehand tho, thanks again.

  • +1 to the suggestions about NOT giving advance notice… too much opportunity for the squatters to retaliate.

  • Devil’s advocate- is it possible that the people living in the house are victims of someone fraudulently leasing them the property?

    • I would say no because they have zero utilities in their name and have tried to circumvent the water bill, which is in my ex-wife’s name still.

    • Pepco also has no record of having an active account in anyone’s name for the property as well.

  • This topic actually infuriates me. We’ve had squatters in the house next door for over a year now. The bank is doing NOTHING. Police have come and evicted them more than 2 dozen times but since the bank won’t do anything, the police can’t do anything except kick them out. The back windows are smashed out, the yard is full of trash, and they’re always drinking alcohol and doing drugs. I know I sound like a whiney old neighbor, but it’s really obnoxious. People need to take care of their properties.

    • Which is what we are trying to do…

    • that’s not whiney – crappy neighbors suck. unfortunately I have people next door who live like squatters, but they actually own the place. they sell drugs off the front porch and do nothing to maintain their home. no gutters, never mow the lawn, etc. at least squatters can be thrown out.

      • Yup me too. Gangs of loud teenagers congregate and scream at each other all night too. Super annoying that one house can spoil an otherwise very pleasant neighborhood.

  • I also agree with other comments. Don’t give advance notice, you don’t know these people and the type of weapons they may have. Elderly people can be just as dangerous if they have weapons. Going with the police as you’ve planned to do is probably the best.

  • Thanks guys for the feedback…ya’ll seriously changed my mind on some stuff and i am now most definitely in favor of filing proper paperwork in lieu of giving notice.

    I was pushing for the peaceful resolution with the “unlawful inhabitants”…but I now see the light.

    I actually love the idea of a peaceful neighborhood backing on this, hopefully we will continue to have your support.

    Wish us luck with filing paperwork with D5…unlawful entry right? By the way…we don’t know these peeps names…..will that be a problem when filling out the paperwork?

  • There are no houses on that block being taxed at the blight/vacant rate. You should thank the crackheads for keeping you off DCRA’s radar and saving you ~$34k/yr in taxes you should have been paying.

    There’s one house on that block that’s notorious. Some of the ‘residents’ of that house have been seen breaking into cars and selling their posessions along NY Ave.

    • Untrue actually, we’ve been billed the vacant tax rate for a number of years.

    • We know the “notorious” house of which you speak…we’ve been there just shy of 11 years now…not sure what allegedly selling stolen goods has to do with this situation though. No one is calling anyone “crackheads”…just squatters…illegal occupants if you will.

  • Good for not giving notice. I lived in that neighborhood for years. I think I may know who is living there because last year a woman I know in passing was asking me if I knew a place her parents could move (dad in a wheel chair) because they had to move from their current home in the area. If it is who I think they know lots of folks in the area (people who have lived in the area for years, not the new people who continue to move in) and while they may or may not trash the property the people they know may. Good luck! And get to know your neighbors cause mine would call/email me if they saw people who didn’t belong in my property.

  • We had to deal with a squatter during the purchase of our home, but unfortunately it was not “unlawful entry” since the seller had allowed a friend of a friend to stay in the basement apartment “for a few weeks” while she looked for a new place. Apparently if you give someone permission to stay in your house (whether there is a lease or exchange of money or not), it’s extremely difficult to get rid of them if they decide they want to stay, which this woman did. The seller got a court date, but knew that the squatter ultimately could win and then the deal would have fallen through (we weren’t about to take possession with a squatter in tow). The bank that held the seller’s second mortgage ended up paying her an obscene amount to vacate immediately so they could get the rest of their payoff. The entire process took about three months and of course the house was pretty trashed, so we had to hire a cleanup crew. So yeah, all in all it’s pretty crazy the audacity some people have, and even crazier what they can get away with.

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