What Are Squatters Rights in Philadelphia?

Aerial view of Downtown Philadelphia

Squatters’ rights are the legal rights of people who squat or live on a piece of property without the owner’s permission. Squatters do not pay rent and will ignore posted no trespassing signs. There are certain circumstances under which this is legal and others where it is illegal.

If you are squatting on a piece of rental property in Philadelphia or are a landlord dealing with squatters, it is essential to understand your rights and the risks involved. Contact cash home buyers in Pennsylvania to sell your property quickly and avoid squatters.

Keep reading to find out everything you need about squatters’ rights in Philadelphia. By the end of this article, you will be an expert on the laws that govern squatters and what a property owner can do to them.

Squatters’ Rights in Philadelphia 

In Pennsylvania, a squatter is an individual living on an unoccupied home or vacant property without the owner’s permission. Based upon the Homestead Act of 1862, a squatter can acquire possession of the property if they live on it for a certain period. If you have a vacant property you want to get rid of, contact we buy houses Philadelphia immediately. 

In addition to living on the property for a certain period, the squatter must also make improvements, publically share their residency on the property, and have a deed/paid rent.

The Homestead Act laws conflict with the regulations outlined in the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act. This law outlines landlord-tenant law and gives squatters certain protections, including the right to stay on the property for a certain period and the right to receive notice before being removed.

However, squatters do not have the legal claim to live on a property indefinitely or make changes to the property. Additionally, law enforcement can remove squatters from the property if the owner files an eviction lawsuit and wins.

Squatters are legally allowed to live on abandoned or unused property. However, since they are not paying rent, cannot acquire a deed, and are not paying property taxes, it is difficult for them to purchase the property formally.

On the surface, it appears that squatting is the same as trespassing. Trespassing is a criminal offense that Pennsylvania state law punishes. Squatters must meet specific requirements if they do not want to be punished by the law.

Squatters cannot falsely claim to have the deed or rights to the real estate. This act is illegal and will cause the arrest of a squatter.

Additionally, squatters must demonstrate adverse possession to take advantage of squatters’ rights. Adverse possession laws are legal principles allowing squatters to gain rights of property if they meet specific requirements.

To successfully make an adverse possession claim of property, squatters must:

  • Live on the property for a certain period (21 years of continuous possession)
  • Make a hostile claim to any other potential occupants and demonstrate that they believe themselves to be the rightful owner of the property.
  • Have domain over the property and exercise their authority over the property.
  • Openly occupy and reside on the property.
  • Live on the property alone and exercise exclusive possession.

If a squatter meets all of these requirements, it may be able to gain legal ownership of the property. If a squatter successfully makes an adverse possession claim, they can legally take over property ownership. Once a squatter has possession of the property, the (former) owner cannot persecute or evict the new owner.

However, squatting is a risky proposition. If squatters do not meet the requirements for adverse possession, they can be removed from the property by the rightful owner. The squatter may also be subject to criminal charges, such as trespassing.

Additionally, squatters may not be able to get utilities, such as water and electricity, turned on in their name. It is difficult to gain access to utilities because squatters are not the actual owner of the property, and utility companies require a signed contract from the owner before they turn on the utilities.

It may seem a bit backward, but squatters have more rights than their landlords, and due to this long list of rights it can be difficult for landlords to evict squatters from their property.

Landlords’ Rights in Philadelphia 

An elderly couple reading through papers and discovering their landlord's rights

The Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act also outline the rights of landlords in Philadelphia and their responsibilities.

If you are a landlord and you want to avoid dealing with squatters, some of the preventative measures are:

  • Posting a no trespassing sign
  • Hire a property management company
  • Know local property law
  • Keep possession of the legal title
  • Sell your vacant properties by contacting Philadelphia companies that buy houses

For example, landlords must follow specific laws when they want to terminate a lease agreement with a tenant. A landlord must give renters who have not paid rent at least ten days to move out before the landlord can file an eviction notice.

The Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act also give landlords recourse for tenants who abandon items and refuse on a property. Finally, it also gives landlords guidelines on dealing with squatters.

In addition to the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Philadelphia has a squatter bill that gives specific recourse for landlords dealing with squatters.

The Philadelphia squatters bill allows a landlord to file a complaint with the authorities regarding the presence of squatters on their property. If the landlord can demonstrate that the squatters are not tenants, the landlord can arrange a hearing with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Can You Remove a Squatter from Your Home 

Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act allow landlords to evict and remove squatters from their property. However, the eviction process is a complicated one that involves multiple steps.

If you are a landlord in Philadelphia and have squatters on your property, you must follow these steps precisely. Otherwise, you may face recourse and civil suits from the squatters.

How to Remove a Squatter from Your Home 

To remove a squatter from your home, you must follow the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act’s regulations and arrange a hearing with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

A landlord will present the necessary information at the hearing to a judge. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the judge may levy a fine and impose a 90-day jail sentence.

However, the fine and jail sentence often does not directly result in the squatter leaving the landlord’s property. Following the judge’s fine and possible jail sentence, the next step requires the landlord to deliver several documents to the squatter.

The first step is to serve the squatter with an eviction notice. A sheriff or police officer must deliver this notice and give the squatter ten days to vacate the property.

After the ten days have passed and the squatter has not left, you can file an eviction lawsuit. They will hear this lawsuit in front of a judge who will decide if the squatter must go.

If the squatter is a former tenant of less than one year, a landlord can serve a 15-day notice to leave. However, if the squatter is a tenant of more than a year, the notice increases to 30-days. Additionally, if the landlord can demonstrate that the squatter is engaging in illegal activity, the notice is reduced to 10 days.

If the judge rules in your favor, they will issue a writ of possession. This writ allows the sheriff to remove the squatter from your property by force if necessary.

A writ of possession is the final step in eviction and is a last resort. The intervention of the sheriff can turn violent and potentially damage the landlord’s property.

Unfortunately, even if they expedite this entire process, it can take several months to complete. It is also expensive, given the time a landlord must spend in court before a judge.

The process of removing squatters from your property can be long and complicated. Having an experienced squatters’ rights attorney on your side is essential to protect your interests and help you navigate the legal landscape.

What to Do If You Have a Squatter in Your Home 

If you have a squatter in your home, it is vital to take action as soon as possible. Allowing squatters to live on your property can be detrimental for several reasons.

First, squatters can damage your property. Second, they may refuse to leave when asked, and squatters’ rights laws remove them from the property complex.

If you have squatters in your home, you should take the following steps:

  • Firstly, do not confront the squatters yourself. A confrontation could lead to a dangerous and volatile situation.
  • Secondly, contact an experienced squatters’ rights attorney who can help you navigate the legal landscape and protect your interests.
  • Thirdly, follow the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act’s guidelines on removing squatters from your property. This process is long and complicated, but it is the best way to remove squatters from your home safely and legally.

These steps will help you protect your property and quickly and efficiently remove squatters from your home promptly and efficiently.

Once you have successfully evicted the squatters, avoid this headache in the future and sell house by owner in Philadelphia

Wrap Up

While squatters’ rights may seem unfair, they are in the law.

If you have squatters on your property, taking action as soon as possible is vital.

Allowing squatters to live on your property can be detrimental for several reasons, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it may become for you to evict them. 

You can avoid this problem altogether and sell a house fast in Springfield.

If you have a problem with squatters on one of your properties, explore the CTA widget to read more about what you can do to solve this challenging problem.

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