Politics

‘Squatters rights’ bill heads to Pennsylvania governor after brief stumbling block

Legislation that partly dismantles “squatters rights” in Pennsylvania will head to the governor’s desk after a brief stumbling block.

Under the soon-to-be law, squatters could face a defiant trespass charge if they don’t vacate a property after being told to do so by the owner.

Doing so safeguards homes and investments quickly and effectively without wading through needless red tape, said prime sponsor Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie.

He said the “escalating problem … strikes at the heart of justice and fairness” and can pose safety threats.

One such incident in his district, Laughlin said, saw two homes razed and two more damaged from a fire that squatters started.

“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,” he said.

Pennsylvania state senator Dan Laughlin, at his Erie office on Nov. 4, 2021
Doing so safeguards homes and investments quickly and effectively without wading through needless red tape, said prime sponsor Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie. GREG WOHLFORD/ERIE TIMES-NEWS / USA TODAY NETWORK

“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.”

The Senate unanimously passed the bill on June 12 and the House followed suit on Tuesday – even though some lawmakers said it didn’t go far enough to protect homeowners.

Rep. Donna Scheuren, R-Gilbertsville, said on the chamber floor that she’d vote for the bill, despite its exclusion of her amendment to give law enforcement more authority to evict squatters on the spot.

“This issue seems to infuriate every rational person across our commonwealth and as legislators, I feel its our duty to continue to work on common sense solutions that put our homeowners rights before the criminals,” she said. 

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