New Law Will Protect Howeowners from Squatters

Great news for anyone owning a home in Florida, particularly if it’s a second home, vacation home, or investment property. A law that goes into effect on July 1 allows property owners to remove an unauthorized person from their property.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 621 in Orlando on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 ending the squatters scam in the state of Florida.

The legislation protects citizen’s property rights, giving homeowners remedies against squatting, and penalties for squatters.

The bill allows a property owner to request an officer to remove an unauthorized person from their property, but the owner must contact the sheriff and file a complaint to show eligibility. If the officer can verify their ownership of the property, the squatter can be removed.

Under HB 621, the unauthorized person must have entered and remained on the property, been told by the owner to leave the property, and that the person is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

However, the bill said that the property owner has to pay the officer a civil eviction fee, in addition to an hourly rate, if the officer has to “stand by and keep the peace” while removing a squatter.

Squatters can face harsh penalties including, a first-degree felony for trying to sell or rent a property without authority or ownership, a second-degree felony for staying or trespassing in a home and causing over $1,000 in damages, and a first-degree misdemeanor for making a false claim in writing to obtain property.

The law will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Why does this matter?

I care about this bill and what it means for my clients. A few years ago, I had an investor client who lived in Chicago and owned a condo in Sarasota. He called me to ask if I could meet a painter at the condo and give him a key so he could repaint the interior. I did, and then I came back a few days later to check on the progress. To my surprise, the “painters” had MOVED IN to the condo and had spread personal belongings and garbage everywhere. When I called the police, there was nothing they could do. Thankfully we were able to get them out within a few days, however, other homeowners have not been so lucky. If the squatters had not left, it could have been months or years before the owner regained control of his investment property. This bill protects homeowners and their hard-earned investments.

– Christine Pope, Sarasota REALTOR