I’m a real estate broker in a large metropolitan area. I have many years of experience, both in the actual business, and in committee work regarding ethics and public policy. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something happens to show me that there is always a new situation to manage, beyond what I ever could have imagined.
The Friday before last, I attended a settlement with my client, who purchased a property he plans to renovate and live in. It was what we call a “wet” settlement, in that the Seller walked away from the table with her proceeds from the sale in her hand.
The Seller had not finished her move, and we made arrangements for her to complete it over the weekend. My client went ahead and changed the front door lock.
I received a call from the mover early the next morning, saying that the Seller had broken in and was occupying the house. I went by to speak to her. She was groggy, possibly under the influence of something, and refused to leave. Since we had made plans for her to move over the weekend, my client made the decision to check back in on Monday.
On Monday, I met my client at the house and the door was barricaded shut. My client called the police. Three police officers met us at the house. We explained what had transpired. They were sympathetic.
They were sympathetic BUT, this being the District of Columbia, where tenants have more rights than property owners, they insisted they had no authority to remove her. My client was instructed to file a notice to evict down at landlord and tenant court. In many cases, this process takes six months to a year.My client has since consulted with several attorneys specializing in tenancy law. They have all told him the same thing that the police officers had.
At this point, over a week later, the Seller has made some movement with regard to getting some of her stuff out of the house. She is still in residency. We’re trying to work with her to voluntarily move, since the legal options appear rather dismal. In the mean time, my client is paying interest to the bank, and is losing valuable construction time.
Everyone I have told this story, including colleagues and attorneys, are flabbergasted by this situation. Several people have asked, "so if I am not in my home and somebody breaks in and takes up residency, the police will not remove them?" According to the District police, yes, that is what this means.
19 days. That's how long she stayed on my client's dime. The cost to him includes 19 days of mortgage interest, $72. for broken locks (2), lost time from work, time and money spent consulting attorneys, and costs associated with delayed construction.
We ultimately made the decision to approach the situation amicably. The squatter seemed to like my client and he treated her very gently. He stopped by frequently and lamented over his expenses, which she seemed to kind of get. Because she was actually making an effort to move her posessions (with both a pod storage and a Uhaul), we figured she'd be out sooner than if he pursued legal action.