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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013

    Default Squatters Left when Requested but Have Failed to Remove a House Full of Furniture

    My question involves an eviction in the state of: California

    Iím back again with more apartment headaches.

    I own a four unit, Section 8 apartment building. It is overseen for me by a small, property management company. When an apartment is vacant, we put a special, generic lock on the doors. The property management company installs a lockbox nearby containing a key to the apartment. If a prospective tenant wants to see the apartment, the property management company obtains extensive identifying information from the individual, does some sort of a check on them and then gives them the code to the lock box. The prospective tenant then checks out the empty unit and replaces the key in the lockbox.

    I recognize this doesnít sound like the wisest method to use but over several year it hasnít backfired until now.

    Last month a prospective Section 8 tenant viewed the apartment, liked it and applied. She passed all of the property managementís checks with respect to credit, criminal history, previous landlord history, etc., and her paperwork was sent to Section 8 for approval. Section 8 signed off, the property management company told the tenant everything was in order and all she had to do was come in, sign the lease, pay her security deposit, pick up the keys on January 2nd and move in.

    On December 29th, I went to the apartment to change the locks in anticipation of the tenant signing the lease and moving in on January 2nd. Upon arrival I discovered that the prospective tenant had accessed the property managementís lockbox, moved most of her furniture into the apartment ahead of time and was having a party inside with four other adults and her four children.

    Up to this point she had yet to sign the lease or pay a security deposit so no landlord/tenant relationship had been established and she was squatting. Examination of the premises revealed she had done about $100 in damage to cabinetry during her brief presence by smashing a door beyond repair. I notified the property management company who spoke with her by phone and directed her and her companions to leave the premises immediately. They complied after about an hour, but left her furniture behind. The locks were then changed to prevent reentry.

    The property management company followed up with her the next day, caught her in numerous lies and combined with the trespass and damage to the apartment, elected not to rent to her. An appointment was made for her to return to the apartment and remove her furniture but she failed to show up.

    I am now stuck with a vacant apartment that I canít show or rent because it is filled with her furniture. I would like to see it removed.

    I am losing $1,500 per month in rent because this personís furniture is occupying an otherwise rentable apartment. My question for the wisdom of the collective is: What are my obligations (if any) with respect to her furniture? Again, no lease was signed, no security deposit was paid and she was never a tenant. If anything, her entry was an unlawful trespass, without permission and she voluntarily departed when requested, but left her property behind and failed to show for an appointment to remove it. Must I put it in storage? Can I treat it as abandoned? What is the cut off or tipping point at which I have no further obligation as to her property and can simply dispose of it?

    The property management company has never been faced with a situation like this and is unsure of what my remedy might be.

    Your thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    Default Re: Squatters Leave when Requested but Refuse to Remove House Full of Furniture

    She was never a tenant so you simply treat all the property under CA abandoned property laws, just as if you found it on your front porch one day.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013

    Default Re: Squatters Leave when Requested but Refuse to Remove House Full of Furniture

    My thoughts?

    Hire yourself a good lawyer who knows how to represent landlords because you and your little management company haven't got a clue as to what it takes to be landlords.

    Sorry to have to be so blunt, but that's the reality.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Squatters Left when Requested but Have Failed to Remove a House Full of Furniture

    If the person remained present, I would suggest going to the police and reporting them as a trespasser or filing a forcible detainer action in the local court.

    As the person moved out, you're in a somewhat awkward position. Although there's a statute that applies to property abandoned by a tenant, the person is not a tenant and the statutory notice period is 15 - 18 days (Civil Code, Sec. 1951.3) -- so even if it were applicable it's a slow way to respond. Simply discarding the property could be met with a response by the squatter that you didn't give them an opportunity to recover their possessions, subjecting you to possible civil liability or even an accusation of theft. You can read California's law for abandoned personal property and your obligations to the owner, here, Civil Code Sec. 2080 - 2080.1. You can bring an unlawful detainer suit -- the are heard relatively quickly and you should get an order permitting removal of the personal property, but through that approach you may end up obligated to store it for a period of time.

    You should take note of the remedies recently enacted through CCP Sec. 527.11, which you can read here. Although the statute seems to anticipate that a property would be registered as vacant before a squatter enters, that does not appear to be an impediment to taking action under the statute. That statute allows for the rapid issuance of an injunction once the police have verified that somebody is a squatter. If you want to try that approach, given the facts of your case and the newness of the statute, I suggest consulting a local real estate lawyer who handles eviction actions.

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