How an Occupant of a Property May Claim Legal Title after 10 Years

Real estate investors searching for property acquisitions often locate properties with deceased owners. These properties might make a good investment if the property could be legally purchased from the owner. But if the owner is deceased and left no heirs, or the heirs cannot be found, it may not be possible to purchase the property.


These properties are unfortunately sold at a sheriff tax sale when the taxes go unpaid. The potential acquisition may no longer make sense when the investor must bid at the tax auction against many other investors.


How can an investor purchase a property abandoned by the owner or heirs?

The law of Adverse Possession (“squatters rights”) creates a potential solution but also risks to investors. A person who has held continuous possession of a property without permission of the owner may make a claim for legal title after a certain period of time. Title can only be obtained in this way through a lawsuit called a Quiet Title action. The purpose of this law is to achieve a fair result when a landowner abandons a property, or when the owner dies and the heirs do nothing.


How does adverse possession create risks and opportunities to investors?

From the perspective of an investor, if you are considering a purchase with someone residing in the property, make sure the occupant does not have an adverse possession claim. An investment can be lost if you purchase a property subject to a valid adverse possession claim. On the other hand, it might make sense to negotiate a purchase from the person who claims title to the property by adverse possession after the claim is resolved by a Quiet Title lawsuit.


The minimum period of adverse possession is 21 years in Pennsylvania. However, the waiting period will soon be reduced to just 10 years in June 2019 for residential properties with a single family home on a lot of less than ½ acre.


As a real estate litigation attorney to developers and investors, I help my clients avoid costly mistakes and resolve disputes. If you or someone you know needs to bring clarity to a real estate problem, please call our office at (484) 690-4613.


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How to Know Whether to File an Ejectment or Eviction

Real estate investors often purchase properties that are occupied at the time of purchase. It some cases the investor purchased the property for the rental income and desires rent-paying tenants to remain. But some investors may wish to have the property vacated due to non-paying occupants or to renovate the property. Investors who choose to vacate a property must select the right legal process. Selecting the wrong process wastes time and money and delays the ultimate plans for the property’s use.

Removing an occupant is accomplished through either an “eviction” or an “ejectment” case. Which type of case is the right one? The answer depends on the legal status of the occupant.



When should an Eviction be filed?

Evictions may only be used to remove tenants. Tenants are persons who have a landlord-tenant relationship with the owner. A landlord-tenant relationship exists if the tenant had a lease or paid rent. A lease does not have to be in writing. If there is an agreement between the owner and the occupant to use the property in exchange for money, then a landlord-tenant relationship is exists.

The advantages of an eviction compared to an ejectment in Philadelphia are lower cost and a relatively short legal process. Tenants can often be evicted in 6-7 weeks.


When should an Ejectment be filed?

Any person who is not a tenant must be removed through an ejectment action. As a real estate investor or property owner, it is frustrating when a property is occupied by someone who does not pay to use the property. An ejectment action can restore possession to the owner or grant possession to a recent purchaser.

The best practice is to start the case without delay because ejectments can be a lengthy process.

If you know someone needs to obtain possession of a property, please call our office at (484) 690-4613. As a real estate litigation attorney to developers and investors, I help my clients avoid costly mistakes and resolve disputes.

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Recent Law May Help Remove Criminal Squatters

As a real estate investor or property owner, it is frustrating when a property is occupied by a squatter. Squatters create many risks to the property and complicate negotiations for sale. The legal process to remove a squatter may take up to a year in Philadelphia. Some savvy squatters may demand an enormous cash payment in exchange for the keys.

However, a recent Philadelphia law went into effect that can result in the removal of a squatter in a fraction of the time.


What is the new law?

Philadelphia Criminal and Defiant Trespasser Law

Philadelphia Code § 10-840, et seq.


What problem does it solve?

Owners who never had a landlord/tenant relationship with a squatter must file a legal action called an “ejectment.” An ejectment is expensive and takes nine months or more because it requires a trial in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. The legal process to remove a criminal trespasser was at least nine months in length while a tenant could be removed in just 6-8 weeks. 

Under the new law, the property owner can request an emergency hearing before a judge. The court will schedule the hearing within five days. If the owner is successful at the hearing, the court will issue an order authorizing a writ of possession.

What must the property owner do to take advantage of the new process?

The law requires property owners to prove the following:

  • The property must be a residential property
  • The occupant must not:
    • hold legal title to the property;
    • have permission from the owner or former owner;
    • be a tenant or a holdover tenant
  • The owner must:
    • produce an affidavit setting forth the required facts about the illegal occupancy as stated in the law;
    • initiate a complaint with the Police Department and provide the affidavit in support of the complaint;
    • hire an attorney to file an Ejectment lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas and serve the complaint per the rules of civil procedure;
    • file a Motion for Emergency Preliminary Injunction;
    • attend the Motion hearing and prove by preponderance of the evidence that the owner is likely to prevail at the ejectment trial; and
    • if the court grants the owner’s request, a writ of possession will be issued, and the trespasser can be imprisoned and fined for noncompliance


How can I benefit from the law as an investor or property owner?

You can work with sellers to quickly remove squatters from a property. The expedited removal may create investment opportunities that may not otherwise make sense and reduce the risks that come with squatters residing in a property.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a squatter, please call our office at (484) 690-4613. As a real estate litigation attorney to developers and investors, I help my clients avoid costly mistakes and resolve disputes.

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Solutions to Remove Squatters who Jeopardize Real Estate Investments

Dealing with a squatter who refuses to leave a property is immensely frustrating and emotionally taxing. A squatter may rob you of rental income or jeopardize a real estate deal. Squatters can impact property owners, sellers, heirs to a property, estate administrators, people who wish to buy a property and purchasers of properties sold at a sheriff’s sale.


What is a squatter?

A squatter is a person who does not have a legal basis for remaining in a property. A squatter is different from a tenant. A tenant is a person who had an agreement with the owner to pay rent even if that agreement was not in writing. A squatter is a person who entered a property by some reason other than payment of rent.

Here are some examples of squatters:

  • criminal who broke into a vacant property and stayed
  • relative or heir of a property owner who passed away
  • former owner of a property who lost the property to a mortgage foreclosure or tax sale
  • person invited into the property but refused to leave
  • person who had a lease with a previous owner of the property
  • person falsely claiming they bought the property without any legitimate proof



How long does it take to remove a squatter in Philadelphia?

Most people believe that the police should quickly remove a trespasser without the need for a lawsuit. However, a lengthy court process may be required if the trespasser has been in the property for a significant time. Since the squatter is not a tenant, a property owner cannot use the relatively fast eviction process.

Unlike an eviction, a lawsuit called an “ejectment” must be filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Ejectment litigation involves the filing of a complaint, service and eventually a trial before a judge. Unfortunately, a judgment by default cannot result in the removal of a squatter in Philadelphia. Property owners must wait for the case to work through the backlogged court system except in certain circumstances.


What problems can a squatter create?

Squatters often take advantage of the lengthy court process. Here are some of the risks of squatters remaining in a property:

  • They may demand a substantial cash payment in exchange for the keys. A savvy squatter may calculate their demand by multiplying their estimated rent over a one year period.
  • Destruction or damage to the property
  • Delay in your ability to fix dangerous conditions in the property which risks injury to others and liability claims against you
  • Code enforcement actions by the City of Philadelphia for your failure to correct defects


What solutions might I have to remove a squatter?

  • Pay the squatter “cash for keys” – often equal to one year of rent
  • Convince the squatter to sign a written lease and file an eviction when rent is not paid
  • Engage the squatter in an oral lease, obtain proof of the squatter’s rent payments, and file an eviction when the squatter stops paying
  • File an ejectment action to have the squatter removed
  • Use the Philadelphia Criminal and Defiant Trespasser Law, if there are proper grounds to do so. An emergency hearing may result in a prompt removal of the squatter.


If you or someone you know is struggling with a squatter, please call our office at (484) 690-4613. As a real estate litigation attorney to developers and investors, I help my clients avoid costly mistakes and resolve disputes.

Subscribe HERE for more helpful real estate guides and resources.

Justice for Family after House was Stolen by Real Estate Developer

Real Estate Scams are a legal issue that no one wants to deal with. Theses scams can lead to individuals having their houses stolen right from under them. Other issues that can arise are bankruptcy, damaged credit ratings and credit reports. Here at Daiello Law we can help you avoid situations like this or even help resolve ongoing legal issues. In this blog post we will talk about how justice was served for a family after their house was stolen from them by a real estate developer.  


Our firm obtained a judgment against a real estate developer who stole a house from the family of a deceased elderly man. Residents of South Philly know that the real estate market continues to run hot and that even abandoned homes are no exception. Unfortunately, a greedy real estate developer discovered a property that was abandoned when an elderly resident passed away. The house was supposed to be the inheritance of the elderly man’s heirs.



The heirs were horrified to discover that the local developer filed a fraudulent deed which purported to transfer the property from the elderly man to the developer. There was just one problem. The elderly man had already passed away at the time the fraudulent deed was allegedly signed.


After recording the fraudulent deed, the developer brazenly drove its construction vehicles to the home and began making renovations. Their goal was to rehab the house quickly and sell to an unsuspecting buyer.


The heirs to the deceased man’s estate hired our firm to sue the developer for damages and to restore their title to the property. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate is called a Quiet Title action. A Quiet Title action is a lawsuit filed on behalf of one party claiming a right or interest in a property. The complaint alleged that the developer committed fraud in filing the deed and that the property was the lawful property of the estate.


A Philadelphia judge ruled that the developer had committed clear fraud and restored title to the property. The judge’s final order barred the developer from asserting any right, lien, title or interest in the home and declared that the estate owns absolutely and is entitled to the quiet enjoyment and peaceful possession of the subject property to the exclusion of the defendant developer. The Commissioner of the Department of Records was also ordered to execute a new deed on behalf of the fraudulent real estate company transferring the property back to the estate.


Our clients headaches and worries were quickly resolved by hiring our firm. After the order was entered by the judge, our office recorded the new deed transferring the property back to the estate. The family was soon able to sell the property for a hefty sum and enjoy their inheritance.


This is an example of how real estate developers can take advantage of a situation. Most homeowners are unaware that there are many types of real estate scams out there. You should always consult with an attorney before signing any documents that look suspicious or you don’t understand.


We know that dealing with a legal issue can add a lot of stress to your life. That’s why we are here to help guide you through this difficult time and help resolve this matter so you can move on with your life. Our office will guide you through the legal hurdles arising from the death of a loved one including real estate problems and estate administration issues.  


Michael Daiello’s unique combination of sound legal counsel combined with trial experience can help you anticipate potential issues before they arise. He handles cases involving real estate and small business matters.


If you need legal assistance, call us for a free case review at 484-690-4613.



Disclaimer: While we’re proud of our past victories, please note that past results are not indicative of future results and each case is unique.