HARRISBURG – House Judiciary Committee Majority Chairman Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) moved legislation to provide property owners with proper recourse in removing illegal trespassers or squatters from their home today during the committee’s scheduled weekly voting meeting.
“This focus of this legislation is to address the issue of trespassers squatting in residential properties, unbeknownst to the owners until days or weeks later,” said Marsico. “It also gives police the ability to assist in these types of situations.”
House Bill 1931
is meant to address situations where a person requests that the police remove illegal trespassers or squatters from a residential property, but the person claims to be living there legally. This is not an uncommon situation and happens in both urban and rural areas in Pennsylvania. This can be a financial and legal nightmare for the property owner. When it is essentially one person's word against another's, the police often hesitate to remove the trespasser because the property owner could be trying to illegally evict rightful tenants. Typically, in these situations, they advise the owner to pursue legal eviction action, which can be time consuming and very expensive.
This bill states that if a police officer has probable cause to believe that a person is trespassing on residential property, the officer has the authority to remove the person from the premises. They must allow a reasonable opportunity to secure and present any proof they may have that they are on the property legally before removing them. Probable cause may be based on a signed affidavit from the property owner stating, among other things, that the person is not and was not in the past a tenant, and that the owner has demanded that the person vacate the premises. This bill does not affect landlord-tenant disputes, and a property owner making a false statement can be held criminally and civilly liable.
“It is unfathomable to think that strangers can take over your home while you are not there. It is extremely violating,” Marsico said. “Not only that but, sometimes, the squatters don’t even realize they have done anything wrong because someone else has gone into the home before them and is then pretending to be the owner and will rent the property to them.”
In addition to House Bill 1931, several other bills moved through the committee today:
• Senate Bill 461
would amend the Law and Justice Code regarding the collection, analysis and use of DNA identification samples, and storage of DNA profiles in the State DNA Database for comparison with DNA profiles collected during criminal investigations. Currently, DNA identification samples are to be collected from criminal defendants upon conviction or adjudication of delinquency for felonies. The bill amends the law by expanding post-conviction DNA identification to include misdemeanors of the first degree and certain misdemeanors of the second degree.
• Senate Bill 499
would change the frequency and location for meetings of a county jail board of inspectors in an eighth-class county.
• Senate Bill 611
would amend the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act in order to provide that forfeiture occurs when a public employee or public official is convicted of or pleads guilty to an offense graded as a felony.
The legislation will now go to the full House for consideration.
Representative Ronald Marsico
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Autumn R. Southard, 717.652.3721