TAKES EFFECT JULY 1: And "long overdue,” said one African American property owner in Miami, who for three years, and $3,000 in damages to the pipes, walls, bathroom and kitchen, clashed with squatters living in her house which she wanted to rent out. “I wish they had done something like this two years ago." STOCK PHOTO

Miami – A new state law now gives property owners the right to easily get rid of squatters from their properties.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 621 into law, which gives law enforcement the authority to remove and arrest squatters from properties and increase penalties for producing fraudulent documents claiming property ownership.

The new law takes effect on July 1, 2024. Homeowners associations and other property owners groups campaign for the bill after years of difficulties removing squatters from their properties and making costly repairs to their damaged premises when they finally leave.

They had to file civil suits to force them out which took years and was costly.

Most of the homes were unoccupied when the squatters moved in and didn’t pay rent.

Unlike a tenant-landlord agreement, property owners couldn’t evict squatters without a valid contract.

Some squatters produced fraudulent papers claiming ownership of the home, but the police and other law enforcement agencies were powerless even as the intruders destroyed the properties.

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

The bill also levies fines and criminal penalties against squatters for fraudulent claim to properties and any damages including first-degree misdemeanor for making a false statement in writing to obtain real property or for knowingly and willfully presenting a falsified document conveying property right; a second degree felony for any person who unlawfully occupied or trespasses in a residential dwelling and who intentionally causes $1,000 or more in damages; and a first-degree felony for knowingly advertising the sale or rent of a residential property without legal authority or ownership.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said Florida was among the leading states with squatters and is now giving relief to property owners to easily get rid of them with the help of law enforcement.

“Florida is once again leading the nation, this time in securing our state against squatters,” she said.

Moody blames the Biden administration for the squatters dilemma for allowing millions of illegal immigrants to flood across the border and fraudulently take over unoccupied homes.

"After video evidence of their plan to take over homes emerged, we’re ensuring Floridians are protected from this egregious and brazen scheme," Moody said.

According to the National Rental Home Council (HRHC), Florida is among the leading states with reported cases of squatters unlawfully taking over properties.

From 2018-2022, Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade counties had a total of 784 reported cases of landowners claiming squatters illegally stole their properties.

About 32 percent of the cases were settled in court and some homeowners sold their properties to avoid legal fees to remove squatters.

Gwendolyn James, who owns property in Miami, clashed with squatters living in her house for three years which she wanted to rent out.

James, who is Black, said she went to court to remove the squatters and spent about a lot of money on fees, but it took eight months to do so.

In addition, she had to pay about $3,000 to repair damages to the pipes, walls, bathroom and kitchen.

She said had Florida imposed a law, it would’ve saved her a lot of money.

"What I had to deal with it was stressful, frustrating and costly," said the 58-year-old business owner. "The new law is long overdue but i wish they had done something like this two years ago."