Bill helps homeowners evict squatters

Photo of trespassing sign Photo Courtesy: Veritas Buyers

Homeowners all over the country are discovering more and more people illegally living in rental properties and residential areas.

Squatting is described as someone who occupies a property without the homeowner’s consent.

Homeowners in Florida, however, will  soon be able to get rid of squatters. The Legislature earlier this year addressed squatting. This comes after an alternative outlet in a law that makes it harder for evicted unwanted guests to live in properties illegally.

Governor Ron DeSantis singed legislation last month during a news conference in Orlando, granting the sheriff’s offices the power to remove anyone who is unauthorized to live in the home right away.

House Bill 621, also known as “Property Rights,” permits a property owner to seek action through the sheriff’s office to instantly remove unwanted persons from their home.

According to a survey conducted by the National Rental Home Council (NRHC), areas in Georgia, Florida and Texas had more squatters than any other  metropolitan areas. The survey found that over 1,200 homes in Atlanta had squatters; 475 homes in the Dallas-Fort Texas area; and roughly 125 in Orlando.

The bill inspired a Jacksonville homeowner who found a woman living in her home, destroying the home’s interior, costing her tens of thousands of dollars.

Patti Peeples, a resident of Jacksonville, was a victim of a rental scam. Peeples signed a lease with someone named Christopher, only to find out she scammed him. The home was listed on Zillow for rent, but the real estate company did not have any record of the house being for rent at that time.

The squatter created a fake lease, granting herself access to stay in someone else’s home.  After months of fighting, Peeples sold the rental property, costing her over $50,000.

Chaniya Dowers, a leassee in Tallahassee, believes that DeSantis is doing the right thing by signing the bill.

“I think this is a good thing Gov. DeSantis is doing,” Dowers said. “This bill will allow homeowners and renters like myself to safely remove unwanted people from our properties.  As someone who lives in an apartment in an area with a high homeless population, this bill brings some comfort to me knowing that I can stop this issue from happening to m.”

Barbara Davis, a homeowner for over 50 years, also believes that the legislation is needed.

“I’ve lived in my home for over five decades, I have seen how squatters can cause unwanted trouble within a neighborhood,” Davis said. “Although squatters have rights, it is unacceptable to reside in a property that is not your own.”

If someone is found wrongfully evicted from their home, the new law allows the victim to sue to get back into the home. In addition, the law also adds criminal charges for individuals who partake in rental scams, resulting in a felony for people selling or leasing someone else’s property.

The bill will take effect on July 1.