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eviction_notice(TNS)—Q: We rent out a house. After a prior tenant moved out, we spent a few weeks cleaning up and repainting. Over the weekend, someone just moved into the house without permission. I threw him out on his ear, and now I am getting sued. Did I do something wrong?

A: Yes. If you physically removed him, you are lucky he did not call the police to have you arrested. When someone moves into your home, even without permission, you are not allowed to kick that person out without a court order. Nor can you change the locks, turn off utilities or put belongings by the curb. Doing so could leave you liable for injuries or property damage. These same restrictions apply to your guests who overstay their welcome—even if you are also living in the house.

Depending on the situation, you will need to file either an “unlawful detainer” or “ejectment” lawsuit, both similar to an eviction, to get the police’s help in removing the squatter. Think of this before you let a friend from work or a cousin from out of town move in for “just a few days.”
If you let someone stay over for more than a few days, have a written lease agreement. Also, because it can take weeks to get the court eviction done, it’s best to act at the first sign of trouble. Another solution is to agree to pay a few hundred dollars toward the person’s moving expenses. While that may sound galling, it can be cheaper and quicker than having to file a lawsuit.

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