Squatters’ Rights 101: What You Need To Know About Squatters on Your Property

You’ve held on to a property you never used for too long. Now’s the time to put it on the market. When you arrive to create a list of things to do before selling, you stumble upon an unpleasant surprise: squatters! 

How long have they lived there? What squatters’ rights do Pennsylvania laws provide? The home-buying experts at Sell Pittsburg Now help you navigate the specifics below. 

What Are Squatters in Pennsylvania?

Squatters live on properties to which they have no rights, titles, or paperwork backing their occupation. How can someone just walk onto a property and claim it from its rightful owner? This typically occurs when the rightful property owner doesn’t use or visit the property for long stretches. 

As a result, a squatter can go unnoticed, set up camp, and make the property their own. If you own a property but never inspect it, you face the risk of an uninvited party taking up residence. Fortunately, Pennsylvania squatters’ rights are strict and don’t provide much leeway for vagrants to easily overtake and live on your property. 

Does Pennsylvania Have Squatters’ Rights?

“Do squatters have rights in Pennsylvania?” you wonder, perplexed at this unfortunate predicament. Generally speaking, a squatter has no right to your property unless they have occupied it for 21 consecutive years

They must also:

  • Settle on an abandoned or otherwise unused property
  • Intend to overtake the property
  • Live on the property without a lease or your permission

However, Title 42 outlines more complicated details, which can muddle the answer to this question. 

Who Is and Is Not a Squatter?

Before attempting to dissect the above laws, you should have a general grasp of who a squatter is and what they do. Some property owners might confuse squatters for:

  • Trespassers: While you might feel like a squatter is trespassing, trespassers and squatters differ in legal terms. A trespasser might enter your property without your consent but have no intent to take it over. 
  • Tenants: If you rent your property to another person, you are bound by the legal contract you both agreed on. A tenant is a person you have allowed to live on your property in exchange for money for a predefined period. 
  • Holdover tenants: When a tenant refuses to vacate the property after their lease ends, they become a holdover tenant. They differ from squatters in that they rightfully occupied the property previously. 

In addition to how squatters differ from other types of property occupants, you should also learn a few pertinent legal terms and definitions. 

Pertinent Squatter Terms and Definitions

You might hear or read the following terms throughout your efforts to eliminate the squatters on your property:

  • Wrongful detainer: When you prepare to evict someone from your property, you enact a wrongful detainer. The unwanted parties have wrongfully detained your property. 
  • Ejectment: A person who wants to reclaim their property will undergo ejectment to force the encroaching party off their land. 
  • Color of title: This type of property ownership refers to a person who owns or has rights to a property under unusual circumstances without legal documentation.
  • Adverse possession: When someone obtains the title to a piece of property legally owned by another party, they enact adverse possession.

What are squatters’ rights in Pennsylvania? The primary right lies in an adverse position. If a squatter occupies your property for 21 consecutive years and meets the other legal requirements, they can adversely possess your property and obtain a title. 

Preventing Squatters on Your Pennsylvania Property

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This adage especially applies to discouraging squatters from overtaking your property. You can prevent these unwanted guests by:

  • Conducting regular, thorough inspections: Walk through your property weekly to look for evidence of trespassers or squatters. Take photos of suspicious findings. 
  • Keeping up with property maintenance: Unkempt properties with long grass and dilapidated buildings attract squatters, trespassers, and robbers. Mow the lawn, remove yard debris, and protect structures from disrepair. 
  • Installing security technology: Cameras and alarms can quickly alert you to suspicious activity in your absence. Take screenshots and write down times and dates when your technology alerts you. 
  • Recording and reporting suspicious findings: Once you routinely detect suspicious activity, report them to Pennsylvania authorities to determine how to proceed. 

How To Deal With Squatters 

If you have concerns about a wrongfully detained property, you must immediately enact the eviction process. Learn how to deal with squatters on your property below so you can sell or alter it as needed. Consult with legal counsel to ensure you handle each step according to the state laws. 

#1 Notice To Vacate

First, serve the squatters with a notice to vacate. This official document orders the unwanted occupants to leave the premises. Pennsylvania requires that squatters have up to ten days to gather their belongings and leave. 

#2 File for Eviction

Often, squatters will not leave immediately after receiving a notice to vacate. Therefore, you must escalate the situation and file an official complaint with the court requesting an eviction. Filing for eviction kickstarts the official legal process to remove squatters from your property. 

#3 Obtain a Court Order for Eviction

Once the court receives your filing, it schedules a hearing where the judge will rule whether to enforce the eviction request. If they rule in your favor, they will order the sheriff’s department to assist you in pushing reluctant squatters off the premises. Then, you can lock the squatters off your property permanently. 

Avoid future occupations by erecting fences and following the above-listed squatter prevention tips. Otherwise, find out how to sell a home with a squatter to wash your hands of the situation. 

Sell Your Home Quickly With Sell Pittsburg Now

Although squatters’ rights can complicate your ability to sell, you can still put your property on the market after following the proper steps. Sell Pittsburg Now simplifies property sales with cash offers. Quickly earn cash from your property in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, by calling us at 412-275-5238

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you sell to us.

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