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  • Writer's pictureEd DiMarco MS, MA

Florida Law Ends Squatter Rights: An In-Depth Look at Florida's HB 621

Florida Law Ends Squatter Rights Florida's HB 621

In response to the escalating issue of squatting in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 621 into law on March 27, 2024. This landmark legislation represents a significant step forward in protecting property rights, streamlining the process for dealing with unauthorized occupants, and establishing more severe penalties for squatting. Here's an in-depth analysis of what HB 621 entails and its implications for property owners and real estate professionals in Florida.

Overview of HB 621

Florida's HB 621, also known as the "Squatter Bill," introduces a new legal framework for addressing unauthorized occupancy of residential properties. Recognizing the paramount importance of property owners' rights to exclude others and to swiftly remove unauthorized occupants, the Legislature has crafted this law to restore and protect these fundamental rights effectively.

Key Provisions

Immediate Removal of Unauthorized Occupants

One of the bill's core features allows property owners or their authorized agents to request the immediate removal of squatters by the local sheriff, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include verification that the occupant unlawfully entered and remains on the property, the property was not open to the public at the time of entry, and the squatter is neither a current nor former tenant in a legal dispute with the owner.

To initiate this process, property owners must submit a detailed and verified complaint to the sheriff, who will then verify the owner's claims and, if substantiated, serve a notice to vacate to the occupants.

Enhanced Penalties for Squatting

HB 621 introduces several penalties aimed at deterring squatting and fraudulent activities related to property occupation:

  • False Statements and Documents: It's now a first-degree misdemeanor to make a false statement or present a falsified document to obtain real property rights.

  • Damages to Property: Occupants causing $1,000 or more in damages to a dwelling will face second-degree felony charges.

  • Fraudulent Sale or Lease: Advertising or selling residential property without legal authority is classified as a first-degree felony.

Civil Remedies and Liabilities

The bill also outlines civil remedies for wrongful removal under this new process, allowing individuals harmed by such actions to seek restitution, including actual costs, triple the fair market rent of the dwelling in statutory damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees.

Implications for Real Estate Professionals

For real estate agents, property managers, and investors in Florida, HB 621 introduces significant changes to the landscape of property rights and management. It provides a quicker, more streamlined method to address squatting, which has been a thorny issue for many property owners in the state. By understanding the provisions and processes established by HB 621, real estate professionals can better advise their clients on managing unauthorized occupancies and safeguarding their investments.

Furthermore, the increased penalties for squatting and related fraudulent activities should act as a strong deterrent, ultimately reducing the incidence of squatting and unauthorized use of properties. This legal advancement strengthens the hand of property owners and enhances the overall integrity of the real estate market in Florida.

In summary, HB 621 stands as a robust response to the challenge of squatting in Florida, offering immediate relief to property owners and reinforcing the legal protections around property ownership and occupancy. As this law takes effect, it will be crucial for those in the real estate sector to stay informed and adapt their practices to align with the new legal standards.



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