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Phil Querin Q&A: Trespassers on Community Property

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Phil Querin


Question. When I try to trespass people off of park grounds, the cops refuse to do so based on the reasoning that they could be invited there by a resident, and they (the cops) have no way of knowing. I have dealt with this issue in numerous parks throughout Oregon, so I know I am not the only one. What can we do?


    Answer:  I will address this in a series of suggestions which will hopefully provide some answers and/or approaches. First, remember that park property is private property. The landlord owns the spaces and common areas, and the residents own their home.  This gives Management the right to control who enters the community.


    Second, this basic fact does not often get conveyed to the residents or their guests. Third, this communication gap can be addressed in written park policies and rules – which rarely happens. The result is that management frequently does not know how to deal with people inside the park but with questionable authority to be there. Accordingly, here are some suggestions:


    1. Notify residents of management’s right to keep people off park property if they cannot account for why they are there.
    2. This can be accomplished through communications with the residents, but best accomplished through adoption of a new rule providing that management reserves the right to require persons in the park (especially on foot) with no apparent reason, to identify themselves and their purpose. (The reasons could be work related, family/guest related, or possibly just strolling etc.). But absent those or similar reasons, management may be rightfully suspicious.
    3. The Community should be properly posted that it is private property and unauthorized persons are not permitted without first contacting the management office. This would be management’s opportunity to vet the credentials of the people.
    4. This posting could require that all people other than tenants must first register at the park office (at least the first time). It should say that unauthorized persons will be asked to leave.
    5. Your question does not clarify why you contact the police. Was it because you saw someone suspicious, but never contacted them?  If you did make contact, did they refuse to tell you what they were doing there? Did they tell you but you either could not verify it or didn’t believe them? Going forward, I suggest that before you contact the police, you first do everything you can to determine for yourself what the person is doing there. If you don’t know and can’t tell the police, I understand their taking the path of least resistance by saying that unless they know the person has no business being there, its reasonable to assume they are a guest or a visitor of some tenant. But you can and should vet these issues first before asking the police to come remove the person.
    6. Contact the local jurisdiction (county or city – whoever polices the area) and find out from them under what circumstances they will, at your request, trespass someone. Each jurisdiction can be different, so you want to know exactly what your police require.
    7. My experience is that generally, the trespass issue doesn’t occur as much with vagrants who have no business there in the first place, but with guests and family members who are not tenants on the rental agreement - but using it as a crash-pad with the tenant’s permission. It is these people that can be biggest problem precisely because they are invitees of authorized tenants.
    8. Your rules should address the amount of time these guests may remain before they either have to leave or apply for residency. (It’s often because they cannot be approved as a tenant that they just stay at a space without Management’s knowledge or consent. It is these folks who can cause the greatest problems, especially for the neighbors. Clearly, the first approach is to speak to the authorized tenant and try to secure their cooperation without issuing a for-cause rule violation.
    9. My experience with obtaining police cooperation is generally to formally initiate the trespass issue first. This would include personally delivering the person a letter requiring them to leave the park and giving them a certain date and time after which they will be deemed to be a “trespasser. This leaves no question that if they are still on park property after the deadline, they are a “trespasser.” I would deliver the letter to the problem person and the tenant of the space.
    10. Once you have the letter delivered (using a witness perhaps to verify service) I believe the police will remove the person. But you want to verify this protocol with them first.