DeSantis eliminates 'squatters' rights' in Florida, gives power to cops to remove offenders


Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation into law that eliminates squatters’ rights in the Sunshine State and increases penalties against offenders.

“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 ending the squatter scam once and for all,” DeSantis said during a press conference on the signing in Orlando.

The law will take effect July 1. DeSantis noted ahead of the signing that he believes Florida is the first state in the nation to take squatting issues head-on.

Lawmakers in the state overwhelmingly voted in support of the bill earlier this month, sending it to DeSantis’ office. The law outlines that squatters will face criminal charges for illegally moving into a home and allows property owners to file an affidavit showing they legally own a property.

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Before the bill’s passage, squatters in Florida, as well in states from coast to coast, were considered tenants and required legal property owners to launch lengthy court battles to legally remove inhabitants from a home.

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“This is an important bill if you see the stories that happen,” Republican state Sen. Keith Perry, who sponsored the bill, said as it made its way through the legislature, according to Wear TV. “It is egregious what people are getting away with under legislation.”

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Under the new law, property owners can now call on the sheriff’s office to immediately remove squatters from their homes if the suspects are unable to produce documents authorizing their residency by the property owner.

The law “will give the homeowner the ability to quickly and legally remove a squatter from a property and which will increase criminal penalties for squatting. 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 while standing in front of a podium with a sign reading, “Ending the Squatters Scam.”

DeSantis specifically called out California and New York for rampant squatting issues, saying the blue states protect squatters, while Florida will crack down and consider them criminals.

“They’re siding with the squatters,” he said of the Democrat-led 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.”

The law establishes harsher penalties against those who participate in squatting crimes, including leveling 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.

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Sheriff Dennis M. Lemma celebrated the passage of the bill and the governor’s signature, while saying the word “squatter” is too favorable and they 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 at the press conference.

“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.

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The issue has even affected the Sunshine State’s massive boating community, with squatters taking over derelict boats off the coast of Martin County in a phenomenon that began last year, the sheriff’s office previously told Fox News Digital. While other law enforcement agencies near Port Orange last June dismantled structures on an island known for its drug use that was overtaken by squatters.

Flash Shelton, known as the “Squatter Hunter” who removes squatters from people’s homes, also spoke during the press conference, explaining how he personally dealt with confronting and removing squatters from his mother’s home last year.

Flash Shelton interview with Fox News

Flash Shelton said he helped Claudia for free in getting Adam Fleischman to leave.

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“I know what it feels like to feel the helpless, hopeless feeling when dealing with squatters and the law saying it’s a civil matter. Fearing that long-drawn-out and costly process, I decided to lift my head up, stand up and fight. I broke the law down to its knees, and figured out that if they could take a house, I could take a house,” Shelton recounted of his first run-in with squatters at his mother’s home.

“I got my squatters out in less than a day using the same system and their rights against them,” he said.

Original article source: DeSantis eliminates ‘squatters’ rights’ in Florida, gives power to cops to remove offenders



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