Lawmakers are looking to fix a loophole that will protect landlords and homeowners from squatters. Currently under Idaho Code, a landlord or homeowner can only have a fast-tracked eviction if their tenant is either not paying rent based on their lease, or using or selling illegal drugs in the home.
Last April, a Nampa couple was blocked by the current law after they tried to fast-track the eviction process when they caught a women living in their vacant home without their permission.
"Since she was squatting and had no lease. There wasn't really a non-payment of rent under the terms of the lease that we could evict her," attorney Tiffany Hales said.
Hales represented Brian and Renea Prindle. The Nampa couple came to Hales after they said a woman, Debbra Smith, took up shop in their home and refused to leave. The Prindles tried everything they could to get Smith out of their home.
"There wasn't a way to evict her quickly for squatting and so that left us with filing a traditional lawsuit against her, which could have taken months to remove her from the property," Hales said.
The Prindles and Smith, with the help of the Nampa Police Department, were able to come to an agreement. Smith would leave the home and in return the Prindles would pay three months storage rent for Smith.
"What I learned from this experience is that there is a hole in our eviction statute," Hales said.
It's a hole, Hales along with Sen. Todd Lakey of Nampa, are looking to fill.
"When you see people that are harmed by a situation and the law is inadequate to deal with it, that's what we're here for. We're here to make those changes that help protect people in our community," Lakey said.
Lakey worked with Hales on the legislation that would allow squatting to be grounds for an expedited eviction.
"If a property owner does have a squatter on their property that they could use the expedited eviction process in order to get the case before a judge quickly and then ultimately the judge will decide," Hales said.
The bill allows for landlords or homeowners to get in front of the judge within three days of the complaint being filed to the tenant. The legislation also has a provision in place that protects the tenant. If the judge rules the landlord didn't act in good faith, or there was a contract or a landlord-tenant relationship, then the tenant could seek for troubled damages.
"If a landlord files this in bad faith or inappropriately, there is an agreement in place. Then the tenant has the opportunity to get additional damages," Lakey said.
Legislation that both Lakey and Hales hope will protect people in the future.
"This proposed legislation really kind of closes in that gap and prevents a situation like this occurring in the future," Hales said.
Debbra Smith, the women who was in the Prindles home, says she was scammed because she did have a lease that was signed with someone who she thought was the homeowner.
The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee on Monday. It now heads to the Senate floor.
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