DeSantis authorizes legislation targeting illegal property occupation

by | Mar 27, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at combating illegal squatting in Florida by streamlining the process for property owners and law enforcement to evict unauthorized occupants.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Wednesday that targets illegal squatting by providing measures for property owners and law enforcement to remove unauthorized occupants from properties.

Supported across party lines, the new law stipulates that individuals claiming residency in a property must provide a notarized lease or proof of rent payment when requested by authorities.

Moreover, property owners, or their authorized agents, now have the right to file a verified complaint with the county sheriff for the immediate removal of squatters. The complaint process includes verification of the complainant’s identity and rightful possession of the property, followed by a mandatory eviction notice issued by the sheriff.

The measure additionally fortifies the legal framework with specific immunity clauses, shielding both the sheriff’s office and property owners from liability for property loss, destruction, or damage incurred during the eviction, unless deemed wrongful. It also introduces a civil cause of action for wrongful removal, granting recourse to individuals who are unjustly evicted to claim damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

“What we’re doing today is providing very swift remedies because what the squatters know is even when they’re on the wrong it’s a massive process many times before they can be evicted and a lot of times the process is very expensive,” said DeSantis. “We don’t want the law to have the thumb on the scale in favor of people that are violating the law.”

Under the bill’s purview, individuals found guilty of trespassing in a dwelling and causing significant damage will face charges of a second-degree felony. The legislation additionally introduces a first-degree misdemeanor charge for those who use falsified documents to illegitimately claim ownership or tenancy of a property. The bill also stipulates first-degree felony charges for anyone fraudulently listing, selling, renting, or leasing property without a rightful claim.


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