Bill in Pennsylvania to protect property owners from ‘squatters’ heads to governor’s office for approval

Bill in Pennsylvania to protect property owners from ‘squatters’ heads to governor’s office for approval

In recent months, the issue of so-called squatters’ rights has been a point of contention in various states throughout the country. 

After multiple high-profile cases of squatters – people who illegally entered a property and remained there for an extensive period without any rental agreement – gained notoriety, some governors in the country decided to take action. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) were among those who passed legislation protecting property owners in their states from squatters. Pennsylvania might be the next state to take action.

Pennsylvania Sen. Dan Laughlin proposed legislation in the Spring to help protect property owners in the Keystone State from squatters. Laughlin’s bill would “codify Pennsylvania case law to establish more certainty for homeowners, landlords, and law enforcement who encounter squatters.”

“Imagine coming home, only to find strangers occupying the space where you’ve created cherished memories, and then being told that removing them will require a costly and prolonged legal battle,” Laughlin said. “It’s a situation that would fill anyone with frustration and despair.”

Currently, if squatters enter a property and take it over illegally, the rightful owners face significant challenges in evicting the lawbreakers and reclaiming their property. Exorbitant legal fees and bureaucratic runarounds require property owners to follow a list of tedious rules to reclaim their property. 

Under present Pennsylvania law, squatters legally become trespassers “once the landowner warns them they are not welcome and instructs them to vacate the property. Should the squatters remain in any place where they are not licensed or privileged to be, they commit the offense of defiant trespass.”

“The escalating problem of squatters unlawfully occupying properties is more than a legal challenge – it strikes at the heart of justice and fairness for property owners across our great state,” said Laughlin. “Just last month in Erie, we saw how destructive squatters can be, with two homes destroyed and two more damaged by a fire started by squatters in one of the residences. Fortunately, no one was injured by the fire, but dozens of people were displaced by it.”

“This is one example of the personal and emotional ordeal that countless families and individuals face when they find their homes and investments under siege,” Laughlin said. “Under our current legal framework, too many property owners are exposed, struggling against a system that doesn’t fully shield their rights or protect their homes.”

Laughlin’s legislation, known as Senate Bill 1236, changes the current obstacles for property owners.

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“Establishing a precise legal status for squatters empowers property owners, granting them the tools needed to safeguard their homes and investments quickly and effectively, without wading through needless red tape,” said Laughlin. “Senate Bill 1236 is about restoring a sense of security and justice for those who have invested their dreams, savings, and emotions into their properties. It’s a balanced approach that respects the rights of all parties involved, ensuring legitimate tenants are protected while closing the door to those who exploit our system to occupy homes illegally.”

The bill was previously approved by Pennsylvania’s Senate and House of Representatives. It is now headed to Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk.

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