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

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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.

These scam artists are well orchestrated

Last one I read, these old ppl had paid off house.
Worth 500k
Get eviction notice
They’re like “WTF”?!
According to court house, house sold
They used a notary who’s license was suspended
Forged signatures
All behind their backs

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How to Protect Your Home From Deed Theft
Avoid deed theft with these free steps. You don’t need to pay a company to safeguard your home title.
Have you seen scary ads for deed theft or home title fraud protection? They often claim that this type of crime, in which thieves transfer a home title to themselves, is soaring. But there’s no clear evidence that this is true. Nor is there a good reason to shell out for a service that protects your home’s title since you can do much or all of this monitoring on your own for free. Unlike the attempted deed theft of Graceland, tampering with your property won’t garner FBI or national attention.

Deed theft is a real issue. Is it a growing problem? That’s hard to determine; the FBI collects broad data on real estate fraud without reporting specifically on the type of fraud. Real estate fraud can encompass more than title forgery, such as when borrowers misstate their ability to purchase a property or renters are cheated out of a security deposit. What’s clear, though, is that this general category of real estate fraud is on the rise.

According to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report, 11,727 individuals in the US were victims of real estate fraud. This is a tiny percentage of the roughly 87 million homes owned in the US (and remember that some of those scams may have targeted renters). Still, the numbers show an increase in real estate fraud overall, with losses totaling $400 million in 2022, up from $350 million in 2021.

What is deed theft?
Deed fraud is a type of identity theft. A criminal identifies a potential home to target — often a second home, rental, vacation home or vacant house — and then forges the true owner’s signature on the deed as they “sell” it to themselves or a third party such as a trust.

When they register the sale at the county recorder’s office, they’ll use personal information gleaned from the internet or elsewhere to assume your identity or claim to represent you. They will employ fraudulent identification, a counterfeit notary signature, or even work with an unethical registered notary to pull off the scam. After taking ownership of the property, they’re free to do whatever they want — even sell it to a legitimate buyer.

What can a criminal do with your deed/home title?
Thieves can do almost anything with your home after the acquire title. Everyone’s worst nightmare is when they sell the home or borrow against it, stealing your equity. When they fail to make payments on a loan secured by your property, you could end up in foreclosure or be unable to sell, refinance or pass the home on to your heirs.

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Criminals can make money from a forged deed in several ways:

Illegally renting out the property.
Opening a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Refinancing the mortgage to cash out the equity.
Sell the home to a legitimate buyer and pocket the profit. This is a common approach for unoccupied vacation homes or rental properties.

How to protect property from deed theft
Homeowners should make sure the appropriate authorities have your correct mailing address for you or the person who should receive notices about your property. If you go away for extended period of time, have mail forwarded or ask someone you trust to pick up mail and visit your home. Periodically visit any vacant house to ensure that no one has taken up residence illegally.

Look for deeds that you or your attorney didn’t prepare or sign, or loans you didn’t take out, as well as liens of contractors, subcontractors, real estate brokers or attorneys whose services you didn’t hire.

Criminals often target vacant properties — such as vacation homes — especially if the legal owner is deceased. Older people are also common targets because they often have more equity in their homes, and they might not be tech-savvy or aware of the dangers online.

Several companies offer monitoring services, including Home Title Lock, which says it will monitor your home’s deed 24/7 to prevent title fraud. The service costs $19.95 monthly ($199 annually, four years for $796). But you can protect yourself — for free — by periodically checking your property record on the website of your county’s register of deeds.

Municipal resources
Many counties now provide a consumer notification service. Register for free, and you’ll quickly receive an e-mail or text any time a document is recorded on your property. Currently, there is no central database to direct you to state or county notification services. Invest the time and explore your local registrar’s website and see what services they provide. If they don’t have an online database, take a trip to your county registrar’s office to physically examine the title to your property.

our ownership of the property.)

h/t Phennommennonn

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