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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