Evicting squatters in Israel from an apartment or from land or property can be very complex tasks, especially if you are not familiar with the provisions of the Land Law. Eviction by personnel who invaded the land or any property, may lead to a violation of the law by the squatter, and this may lead to a particularly outrageous situation, in which the squatter will file a lawsuit against the owner, and even win it and receive financial compensation.
Before we talk about evicting squatters using reasonable force or through a lawsuit to evict an invader, it is important to understand who an invader is and what is the problem with the act of invasion.
Who is a squatter?
A squatter is a person who enters and takes over an apartment or property or real estate in violation of the law. Not only was the squatter not given permission to enter the territory, but he also refuses to evacuate the territory, and sometimes conditions his consent to the evacuation of the territory in exchange for a large financial payment.
There are "professional" squatters who know that the process of evicting a squatter is not a quick and especially expensive legal procedure, so they literally blackmail the owner of the property in order to pay the squatter in exchange for leaving the property or the apartment or the land.
There are even more sophisticated squatters who look for areas intended for improvement and construction and just before the start of the work they invade the area and refuse to vacate. In these cases, the developer may lose millions of shekels if the works do not start.
Not only private individuals or companies face invaders, but also the state that has to deal with an invasion of state lands.
Please note – a person who rented an apartment or property, stopped paying but refuses to vacate, cannot be treated in the same way as an squatter (read the ruling of the Supreme Court on this matter mentioned at the end of the article). Against such a person a claim for tenant eviction should be filed .
What problems arise due to squatters?
A person who invades an apartment or property or real estate creates many problems for the owner of the area, such as:
- The owner cannot use the property or the area as he wishes.
- The squatter may vandalize the apartment or property or cause other damages.
- The owner of the property/real estate cannot rent or sell the property or real estate.
- The act of invasion, in itself, may cause a reduction in the price of the property or land.
- Evicting squatters is not an easy task which involves legal proceedings, therefore the owner of the property will necessarily have to hire a lawyer and pay him a considerable amount of fees in order to pursue a lawsuit to evict an intruder.
- The previous problem leads to another problem – the owner of the property will have to spend a lot of time in order to evict the intruder.
Evicting squatters – what can be done?
For the purpose of evicting a squatter, you should first familiarize yourself with section 18 of the Land Law, which states as follows:
(a) The legal holder of real estate may use force to a reasonable extent to prevent trespassing or unlawful denial of control over it.
(b) If a person seized the real estate illegally, the lawful holder may, within thirty days from the day of the seizure, use force to a reasonable extent to remove him from them.
That is, a person may use reasonable force in order to prevent the act of invasion or trespassing in the first place .
In order to evict a squatter, you must first understand how long he has actually been in the apartment or the property or the land.
Evicting squatters who are in the property up to 30 days from the date of the invasion
Section 18(b) of the Land Law allows the owner of the land to use reasonable force in order to evict the intruder within the first 30 days.
In order for reasonable force to be used, the following conditions must be met:
- The intruder took over the land.
- The takeover was done against the law.
- 30 days have not yet passed since the intruder entered the territory.
What is reasonable force?
Reasonable force or the exercise of force to a reasonable degree are not defined in the Land Law and in practice each case is examined on its merits as long as the case reaches court as part of a civil lawsuit .
At the same time, it can be said without difficulty that shooting the intruder or "blasting" him with punches would not count as the use of reasonable force.
On the other hand, removing the intruder's belongings from the area within the first 30 days and changing the locks may be accepted as reasonable force.
Evicting squatters who are in the territory after 30 days from the date of the invasion – claim for the eviction of an invader
Evacuating a squatter after 30 days have passed from the date of the invasion becomes a much more complex task. In these cases, it is no longer possible to use reasonable force, but a lawsuit must be filed to evict a squatter, which is actually a lawsuit to remove a hand.
As part of that lawsuit, one should not be satisfied with the relief of eviction alone, but financial compensation can also be demanded for the damages caused to the owner of the land, the apartment or the property.
As long as the squatter is evicted at this stage using reasonable force, he may file a lawsuit against the evacuee on the grounds that the evacuee (usually, the owner of the land/property or someone on his behalf) acted in violation of the law. There is a high probability that in this situation the squatter will even win some financial compensation.
Is it possible to contact the police to evict squatters?
In theory, it is indeed possible to contact the Israel Police and ask for their assistance in dealing with an squatter into an apartment, land or property when 30 days have not yet passed from the date of the invasion. In practice, the Israeli police will not always be able (or willing) to help, especially if the squatter claims that he has the right to remain in the territory, and tries to convince the police that this is a civil conflict. In these situations the Israel Police will refer the owner of the land to court.
The Israel Police will immediately refer the owner of the area to court if it turns out that the intruder has been in the area for more than 30 days.
The position of the police derives from Supreme Court rulings, for example in the High Court of Justice 1750/22 Eid Yosef Abu Ta'a v. Israel Police et al. (verdict dated April 12, 2022), which states, among other things, as follows:
The law is that in cases where assistance is requested from the Israel Police in the removal of an intruder, before it feels the help of the applicant,it must examine the existence of the conditions stipulated for this in section 18(b) of the Land Law.In particular, to the extent that there is a lack of clarity regarding the identity of the owner of the land prior to the alleged invasion, the police may not intervene in the matter…
As it appears from the petition and the responses of the respondents, at this time there is an ambiguity in the question of the rights and possession of the apartment moving to the alleged invasion.
I did not find that the temporary restraining order was sufficient to substantiate the petitioner's claims on the question of possession, among other things, since the aforementioned order was issued 5 years past the alleged sales transaction (see and compare: Siam case, paragraph 8). Under these circumstances, the police's position that it should not exercise its authority by virtue of Section 18(b) of the Land Law and that the civil dispute should be resolved in the competent court, does not reveal grounds for intervention.
Is it possible to evict with reasonable force a tenant who has violated a contract?
In situations where a tenant violates the rental agreement , stops paying the rent and does not vacate the property, the owner of the apartment or property may consider him an intruder and use reasonable force against him. This would be a mistake and the owner of the apartment or property may pay dearly for it.
In this matter, the position of the Supreme Court is very clear – the owner of the apartment or property cannot use reasonable force against the disobedient tenant. The Supreme Court ruled as follows (REA 1798/16 Adel Muhammad Hafez Abu Al-Daba'at et al. v. Najati Al-Jabri, judgment dated March 14, 2017):
On the sidelines, I will comment, even though such a claim was not raised in our case, that the fact that the parties before us are a lessor (currently his successors) and a lessee does not preclude the possibility of a claim under Section 19 of the Land Law as mentioned.
Indeed, the fact that the opposing parties are the lessor and the lessee was recognized as important in the ruling regarding the possibility of using force to a reasonable extent according to Section 18(b) of the Land Law against those who seized the land illegally and took it out of the hands of the lawful owner.Regarding this,
it was determined that the lessor may not use force against the lessee after the end of the lease period or upon breach of the agreement, and his remedy is only by applying to a competent judicial court (High Court of Justice477/81 Ben Israel v. The Inspector General of the Police, P.D. Lo) 4) 349, 352 (1982); RA 5058/99 Caspi v. Deutsch, P.D. NA(4) 529, 538 (2001)).
But it does not follow that a lessor is not allowed to file a claim according to section 19 against a lessee.The aforementioned restriction concerning Article 18(b) originates from a legal policy that seeks to reduce the preference for the use of force over recourse to judicial courts, even though it is not required by the language of the Article (Deutsch, p. 379).
This reason is not required for the purpose of filing a lawsuit according to Section 19 of the Land Law, since the reasons that stand at the foundation of the protection of the use and possession of the land, even if they are not lawful, are mainly the preservation of public order and the prevention of the use of armed force as a way to resolve conflicts (Anin Okshi, at p. 303; For a different approach, see Wiseman, pp. 76-75).
A squatter to real estate, an apartment or a property may cause the owner of that property a great deal of damage. The damages can be reflected in the loss of income, the decrease in the value of the property or the land, financial expenses in order to evict the intruder, and no less important in a lot of expensive waste to deal with the intruder.
The Land Law allows reasonable force to be used against an intruder. In these cases, the person who can exercise the reasonable force is the owner of the land or another person on his behalf, only if it is indeed an invasion without permission, and only if 30 days have not yet passed from the date of the invasion.
In the event that the intruder is in the land, apartment or property for more than 30 days, it is necessary to file a lawsuit to evict the intruder, which is a lawsuit for manual removal.
In some cases the Israel Police can assist in evacuating the intruder.