Ejectment Actions in Clatsop County and Tillamook County
For people or entities which have an interest in real estate, ejectment actions can provide a mechanism for removing unauthorized occupants from real property. Ejectment actions on the north coast of Oregon are lawsuits filed in state court and may be heard in either Clatsop County Circuit Court or Tillamook County Circuit Court, depending on the location of the real property in dispute.
Typically, ejectment actions involve a situation where a property owner wishes to remove unauthorized occupants from real property, but there is no landlord-tenant relationship or other relationship where the property owner can turn to the eviction procedures laid out in ORS 105.105 – 105.168.
There is often confusion over whether other procedures can or should be used to remove unauthorized occupants instead of an ejectment lawsuit. The facts and circumstances involved dictate whether an ejectment proceeding is the proper method for removing unauthorized occupants.
First, as mentioned above, a property owner may seek to simply “evict” unauthorized occupants using the eviction procedures for forcible entry and detainer proceedings under ORS 90 and ORS 105. However, if an unauthorized occupant has a recognized ownership or other legal interest in the property, then an eviction court will dismiss an eviction case, since evictions typically only apply if there is a landlord-tenant relationship. Second, in a family law context, if married parties or domestic partners separate temporarily or permanently and there is a dispute between the parties regarding who gets to occupy the residence, then occupancy is an issue a family law judge would likely need to address under ORS 107. Third, in emergency restraining order proceedings a judge may make a temporary decision regarding occupancy of a property, often awarding temporary occupancy to the party requesting the restraining order if the court grants the restraining order; in such situations, more permanent decisions about occupancy must be made in another legal proceeding. While a judge’s temporary decision regarding occupancy of a property may not be intended to be permanent, it may well help establish a long-term precedent.
Ejectment actions should be distinguished from quiet title actions. One key difference between ejectment actions and quiet title is that in ejectment actions an unauthorized occupant has possession of the real property or is acting as the owner of the property, while in quiet title actions no authorized occupant has possession of the real property.
In an ejectment action, the party seeking ejectment must allege certain minimum allegations as part of the lawsuit, including:
- The nature and description of the plaintiff’s interest in the real property;
- That the plaintiff is entitled to possession of the real property;
- That the defendant wrongfully withholds possession of the real property;
- A description of the real property;
- Allegations concerning plaintiff’s damages.
A party who is successful in an ejectment action may generally recover damages, which depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. The following types of damages have been allowable in ejectment lawsuits according to Oregon appellate courts:
- Damages for wrongful withholding of the real property;
- Reasonable rental value;
- Wages paid to employee unable to work;
- Damages for plaintiff’s inability to build on or access their property;
- Punitive damages if defendant acted willfully and wantonly.
Damages for mental suffering are not recoverable, and attorney fees are not generally recoverable.
A party preparing to file an ejectment action should make every reasonable effort to identify the necessary parties to the lawsuit; otherwise, a failure to join necessary parties may result in delay or even dismissal of an ejectment action.
A party bringing an ejectment action may assert legal or equitable interests in a variety of situations, including: a person alleging title by adverse possession; a tenant in common seeking to recover the entire common property in an ejectment action against a stranger; a grantor seeking to eject a grantee for breach of a condition subsequent in the instrument of conveyance; a done of a land claim or the donee’s assignee seeking to maintain an action for ejectment against one who is in possession but shows no clear title; a person with prior actual possession of land seeking to eject a trespasser who enters without any title; a subtenant seeking to eject a landlord who retook possession claiming an early lease termination; a contract seller who has duly declared a statutory nonjudicial forfeiture under ORS 93.905 – 93.930 or the purchaser at a trustee’s sale made under a deed of trust.
Careful research may be necessary to ensure that the party bringing an ejectment lawsuit has sufficient evidence to prove their property interest, and that all necessary parties have been joined to the lawsuit. Additionally, a party being sued may also need to perform careful research to ensure that can not only prove out their property interest, but can also defeat any opposing parties.
Generally, an ejectment action may take at least six months to a year, depending on the nature of the legal issues, the parties involved, and the court docket.
Sometimes, merely filing an ejectment action can be a productive negotiation tactic, to bring all parties to the table and pursue a reasonable resolution of any potential competing property interests and help a party retake possession.
There are situations where a party may have unwritten legal rights which are not formally documented. An ejectment action may be brought even if a party’s rights involve unwritten legal rights. Claims involving unwritten legal rights in property include adverse possession and prescriptive easements.
Where unwritten rights may be involved, or there is a long history which impacts a property, it may be critical to identify, organize, and be prepared to present admissible evidence in court, including witnesses, legal documents, journals, pictures, and anything else which can help a judge connect the dots and understand why basis for a party’s claims. Whether historical conversations are admissible may depend on evidentiary rules and whether witnesses are available to verify what happened.
An ejectment action can involve a variety of other claims, depending on the property involved, the rights asserted, and the parties. Under Oregon Rule of Civil Procedure 24 A and Oregon Rule of Civil Procedure 28 A it is generally fairly easy to join related claims and parties, to ensure a thorough resolution of all matters which can be resolved at that time of filing.
If you would like help with real estate issues which have come up with your north coast property, please contact Coast Land Law for a consultation about how you can best protect your property rights. We can explore whether a ejectment action, quiet title action, or other civil lawsuits or options can help resolve any real estate issues related to your property.