At some point in our lives, we either lent our homes for people in need or become the people seeking temporary shelter. Individuals in the latter situation typically are very grateful for those who came to their aid. We say typically because there are a lot of instances where house guests or visitors do not repay the kind deed. In fact, the selfless gesture is being taken advantage of for their own selfish gain. No one wants to kick out an acquaintance or a family member. But when things get out of hand and they extend their stay without your consent, these individuals are now considered trespassers. If so, you might need to get the law involved.
California Penal Code PC 602 has everything you need to know about trespassing. By definition, trespassing is the act of refusing to leave in a private property, land, and/or establishment. Usually, we think trespassing is only when the individual enters another person's property without permission. Technically, that is true. However, the term is broad. Even if you did initially give that person permission to enter your home, they still have no legal right to remain there against your will. If you have asked for them to leave your place and they still do not comply, that will be counted as trespassing.
Before you celebrate with this newfound information that you legally have the upper hand, it's important to take note that your overstaying guest may turn this case upside down -- and win against you. The reason for this is due to the fact that some local law enforcement agencies are too careful when it comes to removing a person out of a property. For instance, your freeloading friend may simply tell the police that they've been babysitting your dog, or that they are your tenant. They do not have to present a written document to solidify their claim. Even if these statements are completely false, the police may just see this as another civil messiness. If so, chances are, they will not bother helping or looking further into this case. This may be frustrating to hear, but do not try to forcibly remove the guest from your residence by throwing their stuff out the window. If the police believe that your freeloading friend is your ‘tenant', then you may be charged with a ‘self-help eviction'.
The story is different if your overstaying guest threatens you once you express your need to take back your privacy. If so, they are violating a different type of penal code which is PC 601. If you fear for your safety or the security of your possessions, you must call the police immediately.
Punishments for Refusing to Leave a Person's Private Residence
There are other and more legal ways to settle this conflict. However, they require more time to process and the result is not instant. The homeowner must serve the unwanted houseguest a 30-day written notice, informing him/her that they have approximately a month to gather all their stuff and leave voluntarily. If the written notice proves ineffective to the freeloader and he/she remains in your property even after 30 days, here are the following penalties that they may face:
- Trespassing as an infraction will lead to $100 fine at most;
- Trespassing as a misdemeanor will lead to up to 6 months in county jail or a fine of $1,000 at maximum.
Bear in mind that even though uncompliant guests squatting in your home technically counts as trespassing, there are some instances where the law recognizes this situation as a civil case. Police may label you as a landlord while your friend becomes your unwanted tenant. If so, you may have to file a civil lawsuit, as opposed to a criminal one with trespassing.
Indeed, kicking someone out of your house is legally tricky in California, even if you are within every right as the landowner. The worst-case scenario is being on the wrong side of the law for making a bad decision. Hence, it is of utmost importance to contact a civil attorney or a criminal defense lawyer -- it depends on your situation. Nevertheless, they will be able to help you win your privacy back in such a way that nothing will be held against you. They can also draft the eviction notice for you and give sound advice as to how to serve it to your freeloading guest.
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