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Bill for expediting eviction of squatters clears House Judiciary

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(The Center Square) – Squatters in North Carolina could be evicted within 48 hours of a complaint by the property owner under a bill that was approved Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 984 is sponsored by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg County, a property management software company owner. The legislation must clear the committes for finance and rules before it can reach the full chamber.

It will likely be amended along the way, Bradford told committee members Wednesday.

“Squatters are people that inhabit a piece of land or building where they do not have the legal right to occupy it,” Bradford said. “They live on the property without paying rent and without lawful documentation that they own the property or are a rightful tenant.”

North Carolina civil law does not include a procedure for expedited removal of a squatter, the legislator said.

“This bill would permit a residential property owner to submit a complaint to a law enforcement agency requesting removal of an unauthorized person who has ignored the owner’s demand to leave,” Bradford said.

It would not apply to a tenant who has stayed at the property after a lease has expired, Bradford said.

After receiving the complaint, law enforcement would validate the complaint and then have 48 hours to remove the squatter, the legislator said.

The alleged squatter would have the option of filing a civil suit against a property owner if they believed they were falsely evicted, Bradford added.

“The Sheriff’s Association and the Chiefs of Police have some ongoing concerns regarding some liability,” Bradford said.

In order to assure consideration in a short legislative session, changes suggested by law enforcement will be made before the bill gets to the Rules Committee, he said.

“In the spirit of trying to keep things moving, we are voting on the bill as is,” he said. “But I think it’s important to tell you that I continue to work with any interested parties.”

Bradford cited one landlord in his district who lost $15,000 in rent to a squatter.

“There was someone living there, and they couldn’t get him out,” the lawmaker said.

Trying to remove a person through a regular civil lawsuit could take months, Bradford said.

“I would say in urban areas it could be longer just because of the workload,” he said.

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