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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs law squashing squatters' rights

The law was signed after a video was posted on social media showing others how to break in and take over unoccupied homes.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs law squashing squatters' rights
Posted at 8:42 AM, Mar 29, 2024

Squatters beware. Florida's latest law makes it easier to remove those illegally staying on private property.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 621 into law Wednesday, eliminating squatters' rights in the state.

"We are putting an end to the squatters scam in Florida," DeSantis said. "While other states are siding with the squatters, we are protecting property owners and punishing criminals looking to game the system."

DeSantis said the law provides homeowners with remedies against squatting and increases penalties for squatters.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder made national headlines this week after warning of a viral video teaching squatters how to circumvent the laws.

"Crime is a lot like cancer," Synder said. "It spreads and if you see it somewhere else, let's be on guard. Let's get ahead of it."

SEE MORE: Florida officials warn about squatters attempting to seize homes

Under the law, a property owner can request law enforcement to immediately remove a squatter if the person has unlawfully entered, has refused to leave after being told by the homeowner to do so and is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

The law also makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to make a false statement in writing or providing false documents conveying property rights, a second-degree felony for squatters who cause $1,000 or more in damages, and a first-degree felony for falsely advertising the sale or rent of a residential property without legal authority or ownership.

Justin Mielcarek warned Wednesday just how bad things can get when squatters take over.

"Squatters brought reckless driving, drugs, weapons and verbal threats to the lives of my neighbors," he said during the news conference.

The new law is also getting rave reviews from the state's largest professional trade association — Florida Realtors.

Vice President Andy Gonzalez said the Sunshine State has a deterrent to halt the horror stories.

"If you own a property — even if you're away for a period of time — you shouldn't have to go through legal loopholes if there's someone squatting your house," Gonzalez said.

Florida's anti-squatting law will take effect in July.

This article was originally published by Forrest Saunders for Scripps News West Palm Beach.

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