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.


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