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Posted: 5/22/2009 5:03:35 AM EST
Got a call last night from a friend.
He owns a piece of undeveloped real estate, zoned commercial, outskirts of town, nothing on it but junk –– some worthless, some valuable junk.
He discovers some guy has been operating a business on his property; selling scrap metal. The guy advertises in leaflets, uses my friend's property as a base of ops.
My friend confronts the guy, says, "This is my property." The guy produces a piece of paper that he insists is a lease contract with some other person who purports to be the owner, but is not. There is no question about the title to the property. My friend owns it. Either the squatter has been lied to, and is paying rent to a non-owner, or he produced a bogus piece of paper and he knows it. More likely the latter, so he can flash it in case the cops show up and claim he is trespassing.

So –– how to get rid of the guy? My friend has no money for a lawyer, and he figures if he goes to court, it will take a year, during which time, the guy will totally destroy his property, remove/sell everything of value, and turn it into a toxic waste dump with a million dollar cleanup bill.

Does he have the right to just gate and padlock the property? (It is already fenced, but not locked.) Or does he have some sort of legal duty to respect the claimed "rights" of the squatter and not padlock? If he calls the police, shows his deed, and says, "This man is trespassing," what will the police do? When the squatter shows his bogus lease agreement, will they tell the squatter to leave and take his case to court? Or will they tell my friend to leave, and take his case to court?

I know the correct answer is "get a lawyer," but although correct, it does not help. That would be like saying to a homeless person, "go buy a house, then you won't be homeless." True, but not helpful.

Thanks for whatever helpful advice you can offer.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 5:16:48 AM EST
I would call the cops, show them proof of ownership, then have the person confronted, then later prosecuted, if need be, by the law.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 6:10:44 AM EST
Since the property is undeveloped the squatter is not living on it, right? Go at night and lock down everything, and not with cheap locks that can be removed quickly with bolt cutters, either.

Also, if the property isn't posted "No Trespassing" that needs to happen ASAP as well. Signs are available at most hardware stores.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 8:47:40 AM EST
Lock it up, post it, then press trespassing charges to any found entering.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 2:32:23 PM EST
Thank you all.
Link Posted: 5/24/2009 8:15:26 PM EST
Any word on how that all is working out with the signs and whatnot?
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 9:21:24 AM EST
Without knowing what state your friend's property is in, this is an impossible question to answer. Can only give you general advice, that might not apply to this specific situation.

#1 - I am assuming that there is no fence/gate on the property, and that anyone can freely enter the property at will.

#2 - Call the police and tell them this person is trespassing. When (if) the cops show up, show them the title to the property and file a criminal complaint for trespassing. If the cop(s) refuse, go up the chain of command.

#3 - I don't know who told your friend that court would take more than a year - that is wrong. Most every county in the country has a landlord/tenant court where you can get a trial date within 3-4 weeks. Plus, they are set up so that the landlord can represent themselves w/o an attorney (not something that I would recommend). With a court order evicting the person, then the cops can lawfully remove them (assuming that he is not trespassing and not arrested/physically removed by the cops) Yes, I know that this is not a landlord/tenant situation, but the LT court should be the proper venue.

#4 - How long has the person been on the property? In a lot of states, an unlawful squatter can claim title to property if they have been on the property for a certain amount of time. Usually, they have to be "open and obvious" about their claim to the property, have to continually occupy, etc. The test varies from state-to-state.
Link Posted: 5/25/2009 5:26:42 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/25/2009 5:27:10 PM EST by spqrzilla]
As mentioned above, all states have abbreviated process for unlawful detainer actions. Getting an eviction order from court is not going to take a year. Your friend should go to the local court and research the process for eviction and he needs to do it immediately.

Other advice that has cute advice on how to short cut such is not good advice.
Link Posted: 5/26/2009 5:17:47 AM EST
There is something in the law about allowing someone to use your property for a period of time without challenging them then they can lay claim to the property. I don't remember the exact details but I would recommend that you challenge them immediately. Adverse possession is the term. I can lay my grubby little mitts on more info if you need it. Let me know.

I never had this problem except once with an ex-wife! Never with land!
Link Posted: 5/26/2009 7:51:20 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/26/2009 8:00:47 AM EST by Face_N_The_Crowd]
<–– Has done this a few times

A. Disclaimer all states are different,know the law in yours.

B. LE doesn't help you. Their job is not to refferee civil disputes. If you call them know that the only thing they will do is make sure something doesn't get out of hand. Personally I DO NOT want LE on site, it gives me a more free hand in how I want to deal with the situation.

C. Fences, locked gates, posted signs, date stamped photos, good record keeping, periodically walking the property, and enforcement are the keys. Also - accumulating shit on your property is an invitation to a problem.

D. If it was me and in my state, I'd post, lock, photo, and record. If the guy was there, I just be extremely direct - "your lease isn't valid, you need to leave, and you have X amount of time to get your stuff and go". Given what you have described about the shit on the property I'd lowboy a CAT or a tractor in and let the guy know that I intended to remove everything and if his shit was in the pile it would go to. Give him his amount of time and then start walking the CAT through the piles.

E. If the guy gives you static, put the legal alternatives in his court - "you say you have a lease? File a case". Do not allow them an inch of wiggle room.

Most of the situations that I handle I merely show up and say you have 5 minutes to get your shit and get out. Most folks in that situation don't want a problem and don't want their ass kicked either (you need to understand that if you hit them it will cost you money as well). They will comply. This is why I don't want LE there. It makes them feel like they have a refferee there that will hear their side of the story and it can easily get out of control with you loosing ground or time in making them leave.
Link Posted: 5/26/2009 3:06:01 PM EST
well first look into his business liscense, and police have been after scrap dealers especially last year or so with metal thefts
Link Posted: 5/27/2009 7:21:54 AM EST
What does a business license have to do with a valid leashold? Answer: nothing.
Link Posted: 5/28/2009 6:00:30 PM EST
Originally Posted By Face_N_The_Crowd:
What does a business license have to do with a valid leashold? Answer: nothing.

nothing at all , but it might be enough to attract the sheriffs department to roust him out, counties/ town tend to be irate when they don't get their cut: IE fees
Link Posted: 5/29/2009 6:33:07 AM EST
IANAL but no matter what state you are in, this is the proceedure I would follow:

+1 on not involving LE (yet).

Even though it was posted that a lawyer isn't required for L/T court... consult one now.

Any challenges to the guy should be avoided by you personally (don't let him get any ammo that you "assaulted" him or gave unlawful demands). Have your lawyer's process server hand him the sophenas, etc.

Once you have the court order of legal ownership on your side, then have LE go get him for tresspass (if he's still there).
Link Posted: 6/4/2009 8:20:18 AM EST
Originally Posted By Orion_Shall_Rise:
Originally Posted By Face_N_The_Crowd:
What does a business license have to do with a valid leashold? Answer: nothing.

nothing at all , but it might be enough to attract the sheriffs department to roust him out, counties/ town tend to be irate when they don't get their cut: IE fees

In most communities it is a civil issue related to screwing the municipality out of money. It is handled by a 'code enforcement' officer who writes a ticket and you go see the muni judge. It has nothing to do with the criminal law and Sheriff's dept. Secondly, license or no license (b/c it is conceivable that he could have one to do business on that site) any relationship between the municipality and the 'tenant / squatter' is irrelevant to the absence of a contractual relationship between the land owner and the 'tenant / squatter'.
Link Posted: 6/10/2009 4:24:36 PM EST
Why not do what anyone would do if someone camped on our front lawn. Call the police and report a trespasser.

Link Posted: 6/12/2009 10:36:05 AM EST
If your friend can demonstrate that he owns the property, and the other guy cannot produce a lease signed by your friend or someone he can demonstrate is your friend's agent, I can't understand why the police wouldn't arrest him for trespassing.

Personally, I would give that a try.

Once you're on record trying to get the person gone, adverse possession no longer possible.
Link Posted: 6/18/2009 8:02:34 AM EST
lock the place down get a pitbull or a rot
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