It’s a snowbird’s worst nightmare: returning home after an extended absence only to discover that squatters have moved in. The nightmare goes from bad to worse when the police advises the squatters have rights and cannot be forcefully removed. The only option: file a lawsuit to get the squatters out. As anyone who has been through full blown litigation knows, it is a long and expensive process.
As of July 1, 2017, a new Idaho law put the power back into property owner’s hands when it comes to getting squatters out. What used to take months, can now be accomplished in a matter of days under Idaho Code Section 6-310(4). This new law requires that once a lawsuit to evict a squatter is filed, the Court must schedule a trial on the matter within 72 hours of the filing (excluding weekends and Court holidays).
The action a property owner must file to evict a squatter is called “forcible detainer”. Forcible detainer arises when an individual either:
- Holds and keeps possession of land or other real property by force, menace, or threat of violence; or
- Unlawfully takes possession of land or other real property while the owner or occupant is absent and refuses to vacate.
To prevail at the forcible detainer trial, a property owner seeking to evict a squatter must establish:
- A description of the property with convenient certainty;
- That the defendant is in possession of the property;
- That the defendant entered upon the property and holds the property by means of forcible detainer;
- That neither the property owner nor any agent thereof has ever entered into a lease or any other similar agreement with the defendant;
- That all notices required by law have been served upon the defendant in the required manner; and
- That the property owner is entitled to the possession of the property.
If the property owner is successful at trial, the Court will enter judgment against the squatter. The judgment may grant the property owner an award of his or her attorney fees. If the squatter does not leave voluntarily following entry of judgment, the services of the sheriff can be used to retake possession of the property through a writ of restitution.
Prior to filing a lawsuit against a squatter, a property owner should be certain that no landlord-tenant relationship exists and they are not acting in bad faith. If the court finds that a landlord-tenant relationship did exist or that the property owner acted in bad faith, then damages may be awarded to the defendant in the amount of three times the defendant’s actual damages.