If one is above a certain age, one may remember a “Saturday Night Live” sketch called “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave”, about a comically boring and obtuse houseguest who, ignoring all hints from the homeowners, wouldn’t budge.
A houseguest is one thing, but what if this horror movie involves someone who is actually living in real estate one owns, not paying any rent and not bound to any lease…in other words, a squatter? Unfortunately in Pennsylvania, there really is something to the saying that possession is nine-tenths of the law. Once a squatter moves in, it’s not easy to get he/she out.
Let’s start with what one CAN’T generally do. One can’t simply call the police and ask the police to escort the squatter out. The police will explain that the matter is a civil matter and they only deal with criminal matters. The police will further advise that one obtain counsel and “go through the courts” to get the squatter out.
Translating from policespeak, “going through the courts” means filing an ejectment action against the squatter and/or any other occupants of the real estate. This type of lawsuit, often popularly known as an eviction, ultimately seeks the issuance of a writ of possession (a document issued by the court empowering the county sheriff to remove the squatter, by force if necessary, and deliver possession of the real estate back to the owner). Depending on the county, the process may take some time, but it is in any case better than simply watching and waiting while a squatter ties up the sale or rental of real estate.
At Stark & Stark, we can institute and proceed with ejectment actions in any county of Pennsylvania, and also assist with taking action toward getting any personal property left behind by a squatter disposed of, without liability to the owner of the real estate.