What Are Squatters Rights in Pennsylvania?
Squatters’ rights, also known as adverse possession, are legal rights that allow a person to gain ownership of a property by occupying it for a certain period of time without the owner’s permission. These rights vary from state to state, and in Pennsylvania, squatters rights are governed by specific laws and regulations.
Adverse possession in Pennsylvania requires the squatter to meet specific criteria in order to claim ownership of a property. Here are the key elements necessary to establish squatters rights in Pennsylvania:
1. Actual Possession: The squatter must actually occupy the property in question. Mere trespassing or occasional use of the property is not enough to claim adverse possession.
2. Open and Notorious: The squatter’s occupancy must be open and obvious to the public and the property owner. It cannot be done in secret or hidden.
3. Exclusive Possession: The squatter must have exclusive possession of the property, meaning that no one else, including the legal owner, should be using or residing on the property.
4. Continuous Possession: The squatter must maintain continuous possession of the property for a specified period of time. In Pennsylvania, this period is 21 years.
5. Hostile Possession: The squatter’s possession must be hostile to the rights of the property owner. This means that the squatter must occupy the property without the owner’s permission or consent.
6. Claim of Right: The squatter must genuinely believe they have a right to possess the property and must act as if they are the rightful owner.
7. Payment of Property Taxes: In Pennsylvania, squatters must also pay property taxes on the occupied property for the duration of the 21-year period.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. Can I claim squatters rights if I occupy a property without the owner’s permission?
No, simply occupying a property without permission does not grant you squatters rights. You must meet all the necessary requirements, including continuous and exclusive possession for 21 years, to claim adverse possession in Pennsylvania.
2. Can I claim squatters rights if the property owner is aware of my occupation?
Yes, the property owner’s knowledge of your occupation does not necessarily prevent you from claiming squatters rights. However, it is important to note that the owner may take legal action to remove you from the property during the 21-year possession period.
3. Can squatters rights be claimed on any type of property?
Yes, squatters rights can be claimed on any type of property, including residential, commercial, and vacant land. However, the same requirements for adverse possession must be met.
4. Can I claim squatters rights if I am paying rent to the property owner?
No, if you are paying rent to the property owner, you are considered a tenant and not a squatter. Squatters rights only apply when occupation is without the owner’s permission and without any rental or lease agreement.
5. Can the property owner evict me while I am claiming squatters rights?
Yes, the property owner has the right to evict you at any time during the 21-year possession period. However, if you successfully meet all the requirements for adverse possession, you can defend your claim in court.
6. Can the property owner prevent me from claiming squatters rights by granting me permission to occupy the property?
Yes, if the property owner explicitly grants you permission to occupy the property, your occupation will not be considered hostile, and you will not be able to claim squatters rights.
7. Can I sell a property I have claimed through squatters rights?
Yes, if you successfully claim a property through squatters rights, you become the legal owner and can sell the property like any other property owner. However, it is important to consult with a lawyer to ensure all legal requirements are met during the sale process.
In conclusion, squatters rights in Pennsylvania, or adverse possession, provide a mechanism for individuals to gain ownership of a property by occupying it without the owner’s permission for 21 years. However, meeting the necessary criteria, including actual possession, open and notorious occupation, exclusive possession, continuous possession, hostile possession, claim of right, and payment of property taxes, is vital to successfully claim squatters rights. It is always recommended to seek legal advice when dealing with property ownership and adverse possession laws.