A Philadelphia homeowner says he was forced to pay squatters who changed the locks and left the property a mess $1,200 to leave after city officials refused to intervene.
Chris Harte bought the home in northwest Philadelphia, renovated it and attempted to sell it in late 2023.
But on Dec. 8, his real estate agent received a call from a neighbor who reported hearing a commotion coming from the house the night before, Fox News reported.
The neighbor decided to take a look, and saw people moving into the house and taking down a “for sale” sign.
Harte then decided to contact the cops, who told him the people on the premises were attempting to change the locks to the house. But they said because the squatters claimed they were renting out the property, there was nothing they could do.
Frustrated, Harte, his real estate agent and a locksmith met cops at the house the next day.
“I had all my paperwork, purchase and sale agreement, homeowner’s insurance, the deed to the home, everything on me,” Harte recounted to Fox News Digital.
“They said it didn’t matter.”
He claims the police told him the squatters have rights, and in order to evict them, Harte would have to file a landlord-tenant complaint — which costs more than $300 and could take up to a year for a judge to order the squatters out.
“Squatters’ rights — it’s like an oxymoron,” Harte said.
“If I walk into a store and steal a bottle of water, they have me on camera, they’re going to take me to jail. But somebody can break into my house, change the locks and now they have rights?”
Bob Cervone, the real estate agent that was selling the house, said the issue has become a common problem in the City of Brotherly Love.
“The police told us that they get three to four calls a day similar to this,” he told Fox News.
“I certainly had heard of this happening from other agents, from landlords. But it was my first experience with it.”
The Post has reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department for comment.
In a statement to Fox News, officers would only confirm Harte was made aware of the issue with squatters’ rights and they made no arrests.
Eventually, Cervone said, the squatters told him they found another place to live — but they would only vacate the premises if Harte gave them $2,000.
Following some negotiations, Harte was able to get them to settle on a $1,200 payment.
When he was finally able to get back inside, Harte said the home was “super dirty” with “trash everywhere” but fortunately no damage.
He then spent nearly $600 more hiring a cleaning company and a locksmith.
“I had no peace of mind after that,” said Harte, who was finally able to sell the home last week.
“I had to keep driving there like every other day just to make sure that nobody’s breaking in.”
Harte is now speaking out against liberal politicians who allow squatters to have rights.
“It’s absolutely preposterous,” he said. “They’re not helping investors like myself who want to improve the city, want to buy these homes and then fix them up and you know, make the city a safer, better looking area.”
He added that he does not strongly identify with either political party, but noted that Philadelphia is a Democrat-run city and said it seems “pretty obvious” that there is a correlation between such leadership and crime across the country.
“We need different politicians,” he said.
“I think their policies are terrible, and they’re ruining many cities all throughout America. And Philadelphia is one of them.”