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Governor Signs a Bill to End the 'Squatters Scam'

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder recently issued a release reassuring residents that Florida law gives law enforcement the authority to remove a transient occupant or occupants from a vacation home, or other dwelling, once the Sheriff's Office has received a sworn statement from the Property Owner stating that the person occupying their home is a squatter.

Florida - Wednesday March 27, 2024: Governor DeSantis today signed House Bill 621, which protects property rights by providing homeowners with remedies against squatting. The new law also increases penalties for squatters.

Under HB 621, a property owner can request law enforcement to immediately remove a squatter from their property if the following conditions are met:

  • The individual has unlawfully entered and remains on the property;
  • The individual has been directed to leave the property by the owner but has not done so; and
  • The individual is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

“We are putting an end to the squatters scam in Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We are protecting property owners and punishing criminals looking to game the system.”
HB 621 also creates harsh penalties for those engaged in squatting and for those who encourage squatting and teach others the scam. The bill makes it:

  • A 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 rights;
  • A second-degree felony for any person who unlawfully occupies 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.

Martin County sheriff William Snyder recently referenced the bill, and other state laws, in a post on the Sheriff's Facebook page reassuring residents that "squatters would not be tolerated in Martin County."

In an effort to ease the concerns of some seasonal home owners who may be worried about losing property rights to squatters, Sheriff Snyder issued the following alert:

A recent viral instructional video created by an illegal Venezuelan immigrant advising others how to break into unoccupied homes in the United States, solely to gain legal rights and take up occupancy, is sparking fear among Florida residents who leave their homes for seasonal purposes, extended trips, or because their home is for sale or for rent and sits temporarily unoccupied.

Although homeowners in other states have lost their property rights to this heinous hijacking of a citizen’s home, and in some cases have even been arrested trying to remove the squatters, this will not happen in the state of Florida.

Florida Statute 82.035, which references “Unlawful Detainers”, was put into place by the Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis during the foreclosure crisis and exists for the purpose of protecting you. This statute gives law enforcement the authority to remove a transient occupant(s) after the receipt of a sworn statement/affidavit from the Property Owner claiming the transient nature of the occupant. We can only enforce the law when the owner chooses to take action after they have been made aware that their property has been taken over by squatters.

If you live in an HOA, POA, or self-governed community, and there is a home you know to be temporarily vacated by the homeowner, but it appears that someone has mysteriously taken up residency, you must notify the homeowner of your concern. Once the homeowner contacts us and verifies ownership, we will come handle the issue, remove the squatter and make their new residence the Martin County Jail.

We do anticipate that this viral instructional video will prompt attempts by squatters to try this here. Please make your residents aware of this squatter trend and advise them to remain alert. Homeowners must work together to make sure that no one is victimized by this, or any other crime.