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Ejectment of Trespassers & Squatters Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If you own property, you’re no doubt aware of the term “trespassing,” which means that someone enters or even breaks into your property without permission, which is an illegal act.  

When property owners hear the term “squatter,” however, images of people living in tents on city streets or parks may come to mind—but squatting also applies to residential and other livable properties. A squatter is someone who enters a property with an eye to remaining there. The property is usually abandoned, foreclosed, or at least unoccupied. If you have a trespasser on your property, you can call the local authorities to deal with the situation, but squatters—under certain circumstances—have rights and can even end up taking legal possession of your property. If your home is suddenly occupied by a squatter, Pennsylvania’s laws on squatters’ rights kick in, and you might face a tough legal path to get the person evicted. 

In general, trespassing may be a short-term act, while squatting is long term. Squatters intend to stay until you exercise the proper legal steps to get them off your property. These legal steps vary by location, but in Philadelphia, the process of getting rid of a squatter involves filing an affidavit and scheduling a civil hearing in a Common Pleas Court. The process is known as ejectment. 

If you have a squatter occupying your property in or around Philadelphia and you need to exercise your legal rights to have the person ejected or evicted, contact the real estate attorneys at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. With more than three decades’ experience, our attorneys will assist you in exercising your rights as property owners. We proudly serve clients not only in the city of Philadelphia, but also throughout the counties of Montgomery, Delaware, and Pennsylvania as a whole. 

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How to Handle Trespassers and Squatters 

Trespassers don’t necessarily intend to occupy your property long term, but they may be there for other nefarious purposes. A trespasser is subject to the offense of criminal trespass, which is a felony in Pennsylvania. You can enlist the help of local law enforcement to have the trespasser removed 

Squatting, however, is another sort of challenge. While it may contain the element of criminal trespass, the squatter’s design is to remain on the property as their abode. If you’re an absentee owner or landlord and don’t realize that your property has been occupied by a squatter, that person can begin to exercise their squatter’s rights, which eventually can lead to a form of adverse possession of the property. The real owner or landlord must in all cases act expeditiously to deal with the situation. 

Squatter’s Rights 

If a squatter occupies your property continuously for 21 years, Pennsylvania law might deem that property to be theirs via the principle of adverse possession. Generally, under adverse possession, an intruding person must pay taxes on the property being occupied or used for a personal reason, but under squatter’s rights, that is not the case.  

There are, however, conditions to the squatter’s being able to file a claim for adverse possession. In addition to 21 years of continuous occupation without even so much as taking a week away, the squatter must: 

  • Establish Actual Possession: This can be done not only by being continuously present, but also by maintaining the property, making repairs, and even beautifying the premises as if it were their own. 

  • Be the Exclusive Occupier: In other words, the squatter can’t use the property as a hostel or a center for entertainment for friends. It must be used as their sole primary residence. 

  • Be Open and Notorious in Their Occupation: This means they cannot hide their occupation of the property. Their occupation must be open and obvious to neighbors and even the owner. 

  • Be Hostile in Their Occupation: In this sense, hostile does not mean violent. In legal terms, just occupying someone else’s property without their permission is considered hostile. Hostile means the squatter doesn’t know or care that the property belongs to someone else. 

Preventing Squatters & Getting Rid of Them 

If you own a property that is open to squatters because it is unoccupied, you can take some common-sense steps to prevent squatting. You can post “No Trespassing” signs, keep all doors and windows shut and locked, and inspect the property regularly or hire someone to do so. 

If you do find a squatter on your property, you can serve written notice for that person to vacate the premises. Though it might sound contradictory to your interests, you can also offer to rent it to the squatter. Making this offer can prevent the intruder from claiming squatter’s rights. You also can call the sheriff to try to get the squatter to leave. 

If all else fails, then you’re back to filing an affidavit in court if your property is in Philadelphia. Not all cities have rules for eviction, which is what the Philadelphia legal process involves, so if your property is outside of Philadelphia, other rules may apply. In some cities, you may have to rely on the state’s eviction process. 

The bottom line is to seek the counsel and guidance of an experienced attorney who can help you with these processes. It’s unlikely in most cases that a squatter can occupy a property for 21 years to claim adverse possession, but even an occupation for weeks or months can cause undue hardship and loss for the real owner. Reach out for legal help immediately. 

Ejectment of Trespassers & Squatters Attorney in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

If your property rights are being violated by trespassers or squatters, you need to take action immediately before matters get out of hand and eviction or ejectment becomes more challenging. In the Philadelphia area, contact the attorneys at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. to explore your legal options and take the necessary action to regain control of your property.