I would like to think that I’m a pretty savvy landlord. I’ve had a lot of experience both in and out of housing court dealing with adverse and hostile tenant situations. I have to admit, though, that I recently got outsmarted by a squatter.
I made an agreement on behalf of a client for a certain man to rent a mobile home space and buy the trailer from the park. This man failed to comply, so we served a 3-day notice and began the eviction process. When the process started, this guy moved someone else in and he moved out, giving them a handwritten but notarized “Bill of Sale.” I was successful in getting my judgment for eviction against him, but when we went to execute the writ of eviction, we ran into a problem.
There was a squatter, whose identity we didn’t know, occupying the property and waiving a piece of paper claiming to have some degree of possessory rights to the trailer. The court informed me that because the writ of eviction was for just the one person, they had no legal authority to move anybody else out. Consider me unhappy but educated.
From now on, every one of the eviction complaints I do will name a John/Jane Doe(s), one or more unauthorized occupants who may be occupying the property under a claim of sub-tenancy or otherwise. Does this sound a little more complicated? Yes. Does it sound a little more expensive? Yes. Naming an additional defendant will probably cost a few dollars more in filing fees, but the hassle and aggravation of having to start over on an eviction and wait another three weeks to get this squatter out makes it worth it to begin doing this as part of my standard procedure.
I’ve seen the same tactic being used in a number of judicial foreclosure cases where they identify a John or Jane Doe tenant who may be either a spouse of an owner of record/borrower or a tenant at the property.
Since my goal is to get a court order giving my client the legal right to have all other persons forcibly removed from the property, as well as all of their personal property and possessions, I want to make sure that order is as broad as possible, including the names of anybody and everybody I know who is occupying the property, as well as the potential John/Jane Doe(s).
If you are involved in evictions, talk with your lawyer about this strategy.
Our take–most landlords/noteholders would never consider this strategy. This tip could save thousands in either lost time or lost money. If the occupant is challenging a quick eviction could save potential property damage.