Removing squatters from property

15 Replies

I am looking for some advice on the best way to remove squatters. Is it better to file for eviction or to file for ejectment? Also, will I be able to sue the squatter for the back rent that I could have collected and damage caused to the property and HOA fees for them living there? Thanks in advance for your advice. Also, how much capital is required to formally do an eviction?

@David G.

Nice to see you participating in the forums ... and the small step forward of dropping one of your frequent {stuffed} keywords from your post.

The handling of a squatter vs a tenant will undoubtedly differ with jurisdictions, so the ultimate advice is to consult your legal counsel on the matter.

The crucial distinction - at least here - that that a squatter had no legal right to be at the premises and is essentially in trespass / illegal possession of the property.   This {often} means it is easier to {or your sole option is} have them ejected from the property.  Where there is no contract for rent, there is no real chance of a small claims (or a civil suite) awarding you back rent (unless the squatter is really a tenant who is overholding).   Seeking an award of compensation for damages may stand a better chance of success ... collecting, on the other hand, is bound to be the real challenge.

@Roy N. I already spoke with my attorney. He suggested ejectment would be the correct approach as there is no lease and it is not a holdover tenant. However, I was looking for someone with experience in the matter that could tell me about their story and what they recommend for personal experience. I know if I speak with an attorney they are just going to recommend something that maximizes their fees.

@David G.

In Las Vegas, squatters are know issue. Best way is to inform your local police. You should call your local PD and give your name and address of squatters. Be ready to prove ownership with recorded deed. Also, be ready for squatter to give every excuse and even come up with a fake lease. If you have old lease of previous tenant, and dates of move in and move out, would help. 

Meet police at apartment, with proof documents.

Terry

@David G. I'm not an attorney. But assuming your property is in Philadelphia, and the squatter does not have a lease, then your only option is Ejectment proceedings thru Common Pleas Court. If your squatter was under a lease agreement, you would be able to file eviction proceedings in Landlord Tenant Court (Municipal Court). Unfortunately, ejectment proceedings tend to drag out much longer than L/T cases. Regarding damages, if you were able to get some sort of financial judgement, the chances of collecting on it would be close to zero. Your focus should be getting the squatters out asap at the least possible cost to you. Have you considered cash 4 keys? If not, try that first. If that doesn't work, then hire an experienced L/T attorney to file suit asap. Good luck.

@David G. , this question has come up a few times lately here on BP.  I think squatting is being a problem in the City.  Recently (two weeks ago) I discovered a home I was scheduled to close on had a family living in the home.  The bank still owns the property.  They offered the squatter family $1000 in cash.  The family agreed and two days later rescinded and said they were not leaving the house.  The bank has now started ejectment proceedings.  

I have learned a lot since then about the definitions of a squatter, trespasser, and tenant. 

I understand you have spoken with your lawyer and received his advice.  I have added the definitions below for others on the site who may find the information helpful.

Before, you can determine if an eviction or ejectment is the right course of action you must first have define what the person living in your home is.  

A trespasser is a person who is occupying the home temporarily.  They don't have any utilities or mail  in their name.  No furniture moved in.  In this case you would file a police report for the trespassing and start the eviction proceedings.   

A squatter is someone who has established a residence.  They have been in the house a longer period of time, 3 weeks or so.  They have taken steps to make the home theirs. An ejectment is needed in this case.

If the person is a holdover from an expired lease.  Or like some here on BP did, you purchase the property knowing the squatters were there, you have a landlord tenant relationship.  In the case eviction is the way to go.  But you have already stated it is not a holdover tenant.

Both of these are long processes, so don't expect to get your property back for 2-3 months at a minimum.

Lastly, you can sue the squatters.  However, where would you send the court documents?  I don't think they will leave you with a forwarding address.  Assuming this is not a scam and they truly have nowhere to live, they won't have the money to pay you.  While this really sucks, I think this may be the new cost of business in Philadelphia.

Good Luck

@David G. I hope all runs as smoothly as possible for you.  Please keep us updated on your progress.

Quick update for everyone. I had the hearing and it went well. I was awarded the judgment for back rent and possession. The squatter has 10 days to move out or I can get the constable to come out with an additional filing. 

Anyone have any recommendations on how to collect the money this guy owes me in the judgment?

Looking at this thread, I am incredibly glad I live on the other side of tbe state. Here in our lovely little city and the surrounding boroughs, we have this thing called property rights. If you won't leave my property the police will escort you out. The only choice you have is deciding with how much dignity this is going to happen.

I haven't had any squatting issues in buying properties. People don't tend to do that sort of thing here, even in the worst parts of town. That's probably also because we're so much smaller, too.

@Jim K. Sounds like life is easier on your side of the state. My experience is actually much easier than what I have heard from people in the City of Philadelphia

absolutely amazing so even when yuh win the ejectment they give them 10 days to get out

What a crap law 

Hi @David G. , I am happy to hear things worked out well for you.  Once the squatter is out you will need to file in small claims court to get recover the money owed.  

I would try to give the squatter "cash for keys" before anything else is done. I have done this method in the past and seems to work just fine in most situations. Otherwise, the only other option is to start the eviction process which can take up to 6 months in Philly.

@David G.

Before you do anything, I would cross your fingers and hope that the current tenants do not appeal it to the Court of Common Pleas. At an academic/legal level, the law is fairly clear that you need to bring an ejectment action. Now at the magistrate level, you could get by depending on how the magistrate feels that day. But judges tend to pay more attention at the Court of Common Pleas. 

Frankly, I don't even know how the magistrate and the prothonotary are going to handle the appeal since I assume you don't have an actual lease with them to verify the rent amount. Whatever the case is, I hope it works out!

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

@Chris K. Thanks for sharing. I believe the appeal period is only 30 days for the judgment. Let's hope they don't appeal.

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