Monday, April 20, 2009

Squatters, or When the Law Goes Batshit Insane

Don and Peggy Bain are 81 years old.

They’re retired, as you might guess.

They have a nice little house is Spokane, Washington, and Don built a shop out back. Like me, he wanted a place to putter around, fixing up old cars and making bird houses. His shop has room for a couple of cars, a work area, and a small apartment.

Don and Peggy allowed Peggy’s adult son, Skippy Ray Davis, to stay in the apartment. Skippy had some issues, drugs among other things – but what are you going to do, right? Family and all that.

Skippy allowed a woman named Susan Pierce to move in, without the Bains’ permission and against their express wishes and the conditions of his residency. Then Skippy allowed a bunch of other, rather unsavory characters to move in. They trashed the place, tore up the Bains’ yard, and came and went at all hours of the day and night. As you might imagine, the Bains were unhappy.

They asked Skippy to leave, and take his shitbag friends with him. There was an altercation. The police came. It was discovered that Skippy had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay his drug fines. The police carted his ass off to the Geiger Correction Center on April Fool’s Day.

But the joke, it seems, wasn’t on Skippy, but rather on Don and Peggy Bain.

See, Susan Pierce and the rest of the rotating band of characters who had taken up residence in Don Bain’s garage didn’t leave. Don called the police to have them removed.

Instead, the police sided with the squatters.

Pierce never had the Bains’ permission to move in, never signed any kind of legal document such as a lease or rental agreement, has never paid rent or utilities or for the damage she has done to the Bains’ property – but according to the Spokane Valley Police Department, she is a legal resident and can’t be evicted without a court order.

The cops were very careful to explain this to her, repeatedly.

Lt. Stephen Jones says that while he sympathizes with the Bains, the law protects people from being thrown out on street without good reason, and Pierce can’t be evicted without a judge’s say-so. Now, dig this, because Pierce is, according to the police, a de facto resident of the property in question, she can invite others in, and there have been at least three others rotating through the Bains’ garage on a regular basis. All of which now have a claim on the Bains guest apartment.

When Pierce disappeared for several days, Don changed the locks. When Pierce returned, she called the police, who then made the Bains open the door and give Pierce a new set of keys. When Pierce and the other squatters lost the keys, police directed them to break a window so they could get into the shop – and stood by while they did so.

The Bains basically have no rights whatsoever. They must continue to make payments, they must continue to keep the lights and heat on, and they must respect the rights of their squatter tenets – including privacy. Piece even went so far as to draw up a hand lettered sign with her name and an address (the wrong one, actually, but still) and hang it on Don Bain’s fence.

The Bains have retained a lawyer and filed for eviction. A judge will have to review the case and grant the eviction if he is so inclined. Then the squatters will have 30 days to vacate. Then and only then can the Bains have police escort these parasites from their property.

Allow me to be blunt: What kind of fucked up nonsense is this?

No, seriously, what perversion of the law is this? How is it that the rights of drug addled vagrants trump the rights of tax-paying, stand up citizens?

I don’t often side with the right-wing goofs and their anti-liberal screed, but this is a case of liberalism gone batshit insane. I could, maybe, see how Skippy Ray might have a case – since the Bains gave him permission to move in. But Skippy is busy playing leap frog in the prison shower at the moment and Susan Pierce is an uninvited trespasser – a squatter that has apparently let in other squatters. They’ve trashed the Bains’ property, used utilities, denied Don Bain the use of his own shop, and turned the Bains’ life into a nightmare – where are the Bains’ rights in all of this? Who makes good for them? Will the state pay the Bains for their continued loss while the court settles this issue (and bear in mind that the court may in fact decide that Susan Pierce doesn’t have to leave, that’s unlikely, but under the law it’s possible, and she can appeal, and continue to draw this out in the meantime).

The Tenet/Landlord laws were put in place to protect the rights of property owners and to protect legal tenets from the capricious and arbitrary whim of their landlords. The laws were not put into place to deny property owners their Constitutional rights or to protect deadbeats, vandals, and criminals. These squatters are not legal residents. They are uninvited trespassers - and nothing more.

Here’s what should be done: Pierce and the other squatters should be removed forthwith from the Bains’ property – they don’t need to be evicted onto the street, they can be dropped off at the nearest homeless shelter. They should be charged for any and all damages and a reasonable amount of rent for the time they’ve lived there – if they are unable or unwilling to pay, that amount can be added to Skippy’s jail time as an abject lesson in responsibility since he seems to be lacking in that department. Let him work it off. But, the Police Department should be required to cough up the cost of that broken window – since they somehow seem to have forgotten that one of their primary functions is to protect the property of citizens. Which is a bit odd, since “Serve and Protect” is printed on the side of their cars in great big letters.

I’ve heard and seen a lot of ridiculous nonsense – but this is right up there with the most idiotic.


  1. This is the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard.

    Remind me not to let any shiftless people in my life move into my home...

  2. I read about this yesterday and it literally made me foam at the mouth. I swear that I wanted to start a legal fund for the Bains to allow them to hire the meanest freaking lawyer in WA...

  3. Although most of this will fall under the landlord/tenant part of the state code, whoever they hire should take a really good look at the state's contract law. Especially the parts about verbal contracts.

    Verbal contracts are and will be fully enforcable under the laws of most states, especially if the fuckwad son ever fulfilled even one term of the original verbal contract.


  4. MWT says it best.
    although Janiece says it pretty well too!

  5. This whole story made me think if Doctor Zhivago, when Yuri comes home from the front to find all those people living in his home and trashing the place.

  6. I have to think that there's some mis-reading of the law on the cops' part. Hopefully a judge can short-circuit the whole thing...and tell the police dept. they're responsible for the broken window and for all damages that have happened since they said the squatters could stay.

    Yup. This is uber-stupid.

  7. Yeesh. Are the cops on drugs? Are they just on the take?

    Looks, smells, and feels to me like a bunch of trespassers. Pity one just can't tear gas 'em out every day.

    Or is it wrong of me to think, "Fumigators could fix that"?

  8. Well, Scott, I suspect that your idea is better than mine, which is "My 12ga pump would solve this issue. And I'd get compost for the garden..."

  9. Insane. Just insane.

    Time to have a small industrial accident with some ammonium chloride and a bat... CS might do it, too. Or a hungry, toothachy wolverine lobbed through the window.

  10. Well, actually, yes it is the law. Unfortunately the Bain's didn't sign Skippy to a lease which would have outlined his ability to occupy the garage.

    So, just a hint to everybody, even when dealing with family when it comes to property or large sums of money meant to be paid back, enter into a contract.

    These laws began at the end of the 19th century when most houses were owned by the companies in company towns. When a person was fired, or laid off, they would be summarily evicted from the property. They had no rights to live there.

    So tenant right laws were written giving the occupant of the property some rights to belonging there. This prevents the unscrupulous from trashing people's lives. Most of my friends here in town are landlords. They all "suffer" from various parts of this law. However when I was in college, I saw reasons why these laws are in place.

    It sucks. In this case it's backward, but the laws are there for a reason. So again, sign a contract. If the Bains had done so, a contract that limited his tenancy to just him and no overnight guests. If they had, they would be able to summarily evict these people. However, with such a legal document, their son was within his rights to invite these people to stay with him. By doing so they gained rights.

  11. If CNN's report is accurate, sounds like a quirk of the state or municipality's landlord/tenant law.

    Now, I wonder what the most important single word in that previous sentence is?


  12. Eric, it's accurate, if incomplete. I did some checking around before writing the post.

    Steve, I figured you'd have some insight into this, given your position on the town council. Thanks.

  13. Family and money/property is the worst and most miserable combination in the world. Insist on a contract and "you don't love me" and "I'll get you for this". Skip the contract because it's family or to "keep the peace" and welcome to Screwed City.


    Loading a shotgun with rock salt is one thing. But if you loaded it with Flintstones multivitamins, could you (a) argue you were just helping and (b) would any hard bits remain so it'd actually still hurt? (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  14. Shotgun? Flintstones vitamins?

    My God, that's just brilliant.

  15. If the report's accurate then, what Steve said. :-D

  16. Flintstone Vitamins! Sharp, pointy, easily dissolvable. Brilliant! Just make sure you're far enough back that you don't leave powder burns.

    Also, just in general, I see this as an up and coming big problem with all the foreclosed houses (in my village at last count, out of some 600+ residences, 53 were vacant). Eventually some people will remember that there are squatter rights and start invading those homes owned by banks (considering how hard it is to get them to mow their damn lawns, I don't think they'll be checking to see if anybody is squatting). And then they'll ask my law enforcement to toss them out.

    Might be a good thing, "We'll start the process to toss them out as soon as you clear up this little matter of the bill for lawn mowing by the village. You know, the ones you all refused because you drug your feet on the title transfer?"

  17. It's called adverse possession - based on common law. It allows someone who has maintained use of property for a minimum amount of time continuously and without the consent of the owner to continue to do so.

    In Ohio, it takes 21 years for adverse possession to be granted. Other states have a variety of laws.


    PS Dr. Phil, this is why I read your blog.

  18. Cassie, it's not adverse possession because insufficient time has elapsed and the owner has taken steps to eject the occupants. The issue is what Steve pointed to--landlord/tenant laws that require the tenant to receive some form of process before being ejected, laws that were passed to prohibit abuses that occurred in company towns and urban tenements.

    But you're absolutely right about how the doctrine works.

  19. Somewhere back during the Bush administration, the idea of COMMON SENSE went out the window. Seriously, nobody stops to consider the absolutely OBVIOUS, completely reasonable, the knowledge that any halfway educated EIGHT-YEAR-OLD could tell you if you asked. These people have NO RIGHT to live in this garage, and the cops should throw them out on their ass! But somewhere down the line (I'm not sure exactly where) we decided that the rights of the perpetrator of a crime were sacrosanct and the rights of the VICTIM of a crime were meaningless. Don't get me wrong, I'm no bible thumping conservative. I think we need to get the assault rifles off the street as much as the next card carrying ACLU member. But both Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher KNOW that these people should have NO RIGHT to take advantage of two 81 year old citizens who have paid taxes and lived by the letter of the law their whole damn lives. I say again, what the hell happened to the concept of COMMON SENSE!


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