DeSantis Signs Property Rights Bill In Florida That Ends "Squatting Scam"

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Mar 28, 2024 - 09:40 PM

Authored by Debra Heine via American Greatness,

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation into law Wednesday that ends squatters’ rights in the Sunshine State, stating that “squatting” is a scam that violates private property rights.

After alarming stories about squatters commandeering homes and depriving the owners of their property rights made nationwide news in recent weeks, DeSantis took action.

“We are in the state of Florida are ending this squatters scam once and for all. And momentarily I’ll be signing HB 621, which will give the homeowner the ability to quickly and legally remove a squatter from a property and which will increase criminal penalties for squatting,” DeSantis said during a press conference on the signing at the Orange County State Attorney’s Office.

“You are not going to be able to commandeer somebody’s private property and expect to get away with it. We are in the state of Florida are ending this squatters scam once and for all, DeSantis added.

The common sense law allows property owners to file an affidavit to prove they legally own a property. Squatters will quickly face criminal charges once its proven that they illegally moved into a home.

If the suspect is unable to produce documents authorizing his residency, the property owner can call on the sheriff’s office to immediately remove the squatter from his home.

The law establishes harsher penalties for squatting crimes, including “a second-degree felony charge against squatters who damage a home, a first-degree felony charge against those who fraudulently sell or lease a property, and a misdemeanor charge against those who purposefully present a fraudulent lease.”

Previously, squatters in Florida, as well as other states, were considered tenants after a specific length of time and legal property owners often had to launch lengthy and expensive court battles to legally remove them from their homes.

“Now, we have not had the same type of issues here, as you’ve seen in California or New York. Nevertheless, our laws were really geared towards this not necessarily being a fad,” DeSantis said.

The governor said that unlike Democrat-led states that protect squatters, Florida will crackdown on the criminals.

“They’re siding with the squatters,” he said of the blue states.

“In fact, we have seen squatters move in and claim residence. This forces a massive, long, drawn-out judicial review before they can even be removed from the property. These are people that never had a right to be in the property to begin with. Earlier this month in New York, a woman returned to a property she inherited to find squatters living there. She changed the locks to get them out, and the state of New York arrested her instead of the squatters.”

During the signing ceremony in Orlando, Sheriff Dennis M. Lemma said the word “squatter” is too kind and the perpetrators should instead be referred to as “criminals and con artists.”

“I want to thank our legislative body, both our delegates here in central Florida and abroad, because this received unanimous support, and it’s been long too often where we’ve seen homeowners that have spent their entire life working and earning. Some have inherited homes of parents and to knock on the door and be met with squatters,” Lemma said.

“Squatters actually is a very, very kind term. These are criminals and con artists that need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he continued.

Florida, similar to other states across the nation, has seen repeated incidents of squatters fraudulently moving into a home or property, including a squatter in September who moved into a multimillion-dollar home in Bonita Springs and was found wearing the homeowner’s clothing. Another homeowner in June, who was on vacation abroad before returning to his Ocala house, was forced to confront a squatter who trashed his property in his absence.

While residents in a neighborhood in Winter Park sounded off in September that squatters had turned the area into a “nightmare” because the police department was “handcuffed” from arresting the suspects as it was considered a civil matter.

DeSantis pointed out that in Florida, there are many seasonal residents who reside in the state for half the year and leave their houses unattended when they return to their home states in the north.

The governor said those people shouldn’t have to worry that “some rogue person moves in and tries to assert rights against the lawful property owner.”

DeSantis said that he believes Florida is the first state to decisively handle this problem.