Why Squatters have Rights to your Property

Posted: April 23, 2019 9:48 am


“Squatters” are persons who occupy a place without permission. Squatting is based on “adverse possession”, an idea which encourages the use of an abandoned property. “Squatter’s rights” allow the use of someone else’s property if there is no attempt by the owner to get rid of them. You can actually lose ownership of your property to a squatter. To protect your rights, you may need a lawyer, a title agent and a real estate agent; in C. James Vendetti, you have all three.


Legal Issues

Squatting is trespassing, which is illegal, but Pennsylvania law on this, like so many issues, isn’t black and white:

Trespassing is the use of a property hostile to the owner’s rights — there must be a conflict between them.

1. The trespasser must be open and notorious, meaning the owner must be able to see the trespasser and have the opportunity to tell them to vacate.

2. The squatter must exercise exclusive possession by trying to prevent others (including the owner) from using the property.

3. In some cases, a squatter must demonstrate color of title by claiming title through some document that falsely shows legal ownership or occupation.

4. The squatter must have actual possession (be onsite and using the property) for a continuous period (21 years).

In short, how do trespassers become squatters? By acting like they own the place.


Evicting Squatters

Squatters have actually taken over homes while the owners were on a weekend vacation, as well as taking homes or apartments abandoned for years. Getting them out used to be easy — Today, we require a more direct approach:

Permission: Owners can easily legalize the arrangement by signing a lease or sale document and getting the money due from the squatter if the squatter cooperates.

Proof: Owners can get around squatters by demonstrating their ownership, proving some or all adverse possession criteria are not met. Owners can then hire an eviction firm or call the police to remove the squatters.

Lawsuit: Owners can get hardnosed and take legal action, filing a trespassing lawsuit or police complaint or getting an injunction banning anyone from using the property. This requires court action, which the squatter can challenge. It’s then up to the courts.


Sounds Complex

It can be. Unless you know all the twists and turns of Pennsylvania law, you can’t protect yourself against people who want to take advantage of you and your property. You need skilled, experienced legal help from Erie, Pennsylvania’s, most trusted real estate attorney. Contact Vendetti Real Estate today, we’re ready to help.