If you own vacant property in Philadelphia, Lancaster, Reading, or any of the surrounding Pennsylvania communities you may be concerned about what you’ve heard regarding squatters and the risk of losing control of your property. A Fox News article entitled, Squatters Torment Homeowners across US with no Resolution in Sight: ‘It’s a Problem.’ These situations are happening from New York to Texas, to Northern California. While there are other risks that revolve around unoccupied property such as vandalism, rental scams, damage, or disrepair that may be more of a threat, in some cases squatters can also pose a very real problem. It is crucial to be aware of Pennsylvania state legislation and to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your possessions.
A Quick Summary of Pennsylvania State Law Regarding Squatters
The requirements that a trespasser must meet in order to occupy your home or property are outlined under Pennsylvania law. Hourigan Kluger & Quinn have a good summary of the squatter’s rights in Philadelphia, PA here. Squatter’s rights are more officially known as adverse possession laws. According to Hourigan Kluger & Quinn, the law has changed in the past several years. You can read an excerpt from their article below.
For many years, Pennsylvania law has recognized the doctrine of adverse possession, sometimes referred to as squatter’s rights. Under this doctrine, one may obtain ownership of another’s property through possession for a period of time. However, “[o]ne who claims title by adverse possession must prove actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct and hostile possession of the land for twenty-one years.” Weible v. Wells, 156 A.3d 1220, 1224 (Pa. Super. 2017).
On June 19, 2018, the legislature enacted a statute which reduced the time period necessary for establishing adverse possession to ten (10) years in certain situations. The statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 5527.1, became effective on June 19, 2019. The statute applies to real estate with an area of one-half acre or less which is “improved by a single-family dwelling that is and has been occupied by a possessor seeking title” for 10 years. 42 Pa. C.S. § 5527.1(h). The property must also be identified as a separate lot in a recorded deed, subdivision plan or official municipal map or plan. 42 Pa. C.S. § 5527.1(h). It appears that the intent was to address situations such as the death or disappearance of a landlord and failure to administer the estate which may leave uncertainty as to title.
You may have figured out by now that it is difficult for someone to occupy your property without your consent and claim it as their own in Pennsylvania. Squatters on vacant land, however, can still be an issue because they frequently think they can claim the property as their own. They will therefore try to occupy it in the hopes of being able to stay there for free.
Suggestions to Protect Your Philadelphia Vacant Home From Squatters
- Make the home seem as if the space is occupied. A property may be substantially less appealing to squatters during a brief vacancy if it already appears to be occupied. The property must therefore appear as busy as possible if it won’t be clearly vacant and closed up. And there are various ways to achieve the lived-in appearance:
- Setting light schedules with timer switches that correspond to routine activities and customary illumination periods, such morning and night.
- Use realistic-looking fake plants in windows to create the illusion that everything inside is alive and well-maintained.
- To maintain the appearance that life is continuing as usual, arrange for a friend or neighbor to visit frequently to take out the garbage, operate the blinds and drapes, put on extra lighting, play music, and complete other everyday activities. If this person has a dog that they can bring along to spend some time in the garden while they are examining the house, it also helps to contribute to the sights and sounds of a safe and busy household.
- Any driveway that is open for usage by a neighbor will give the impression that they are still occupied.
- Use a video doorbell, such as the Amazon Ring system. These devices allow you to answer a doorbell ring using your voice on your smartphone in addition to recording any movement at your doors. Once more, it appears like someone is at home and watching in this situation. Cheap inside cameras that connect to a wi-fi connection in your house can notify you via your smartphone of unauthorized intruders.
- Insecure windows and doors that are hidden by bushes or sheds can serve as entry sites for potential burglars. Trim the plants around these locations, then install motion-activated lighting.
Another Option For Preventing Would Be Squatters in Philadelphia Is To Sell Your Vacant Property As-Is For Cash
717 Home Buyers specializes in helping people who own vacant houses. Perhaps your home is setting empty due to a divorce, or it you had to move quickly due to a job relocation. If this sounds like you, then please reach out to us. We would love to help you in any way possible and give you a no obligation, cash offer for your home.
717 Home Buyers is well-known for its professionalism and fairness. No repairs, inspections, renovations, showings, or realtor fees are required. There is no need to be concerned about your home remaining on the market for weeks and not selling. We can make you a cash offer within 24 hours. You can then decide whether to accept it. If the offer is accepted, we can typically close the transaction and provide you with the cash within a week. You can learn more about our business practices by clicking here.
If this sounds like a good option to deal with your vacant home and secure it against the potential of unwanted occupation and court battles, we would be delighted to provide additional information and answer any questions you may have. Contact us by phone at 717-639-2164 or by completing the form on our website.
About Josh Eberly
A native of Lancaster County, Josh’s roots run deep in his commitment to this community. He especially enjoys helping people find solutions through real estate. Josh is a seasoned investor with experience in many the sides of buying and investing in real estate. Josh enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, digital marketing, and hanging out with his family. Feel free to connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josh-eberly/