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.
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.
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