Florida has taken significant steps to combat the growing issue of squatters occupying residential properties. A newly signed bill provides law enforcement with enhanced powers to remove squatters swiftly, raising criminal penalties for offenders and allowing homeowners to regain control of their properties more efficiently.

Florida's Legislative Response to Squatting

A new bill aimed at granting state law enforcement officials greater authority to remove squatters and increasing criminal penalties for such actions went into effect on Monday. This legislative move is designed to provide Florida homeowners with the necessary tools to protect their properties without enduring prolonged court proceedings.

In a video statement, Governor Ron DeSantis declared that Florida is "ending this squatter scam once and for all" with the introduction of HB 621.

"While other states are siding with the squatters, we are protecting property owners and punishing criminals looking to game the system," DeSantis announced at a press conference at the Orange County State Attorney’s Office upon signing the bill in March.

DeSantis highlighted the issues faced by seasonal residents who return to find their homes unlawfully occupied. "People spend part of the year here and then go to other states or countries. When they return, they sometimes find someone living in their house, and previously, it could take months to evict them. Now, in Florida, you fill out a form, call the sheriff, and they will promptly remove the squatter," he explained to Sean Hannity.

Strengthening Property Rights

DeSantis emphasized the importance of private property rights as a fundamental principle of a free society. "If we don’t have private property rights, we will not have a free society, so it is the bedrock Florida stands by, and we’re proud to do it," he continued.

The new bill significantly raises criminal penalties for squatters and empowers law enforcement to act more decisively in removing them from properties. Attorney Kevin Fabrikant, supervisor of Florida’s Eviction Law Firm, noted that even before the bill's passage, Florida's legal process for evicting squatters was one of the fastest in the country, typically taking about a month. In contrast, states like New York and California face months-long delays for similar evictions.

New Procedures for Swift Evictions

Under the new law, law enforcement officers can bypass the court process to evict squatters, provided the homeowner files an affidavit and the squatter meets several criteria:

- The squatter must have unlawfully entered the property.
- The homeowner must have already asked the squatter to leave.
- The squatter cannot be a current or former tenant.
- The squatter cannot be an immediate relative of the homeowner.

"This law is designed for specific situations where someone unlawfully occupies a property and refuses to leave. It may not apply if you willingly allowed someone into your home," Fabrikant explained.

A standard removal fee with the sheriff’s department is generally $90 in most Florida counties and $115 in Miami.

Increased Penalties for Squatting

The new legislation also imposes stricter penalties on those who encourage or engage in squatting. Squatters who forge leases or other proof of residence can now face a first-degree misdemeanor for false written statements or falsifying documents. Additionally, causing $1,000 or more in damages while occupying a property can result in a second-degree misdemeanor.

"Individuals who break into and damage properties are the primary targets of this law," Fabrikant said. "The damages they cause can be extensive, requiring significant repairs by handymen or contractors."

Call Musca Law, P.A. For Your Free Consultation

If arrested for illegal squatting in Florida, it is essential to have skilled legal representation. Musca Law, P.A. offers free consultations 24/7/365 at 1-888-484-5057 and serves all 67 counties in Florida. Contact Musca Law, P.A. today to safeguard your legal rights with expert legal support.