Legislators in Florida are finally setting out to address the problem of squatters, one of the most egregious property rights violations going on in America today.

On March 8, the Sunshine State legislature unanimously passed the bill that would combat squatting and close a loophole in current law. The bill was then sent on to the governor’s desk to sign.

The bills, SB 888 and HB 621, address property rights and criminal justice, and would allow law enforcement to immediately remove squatters who have no lease, or have not paid rent, or otherwise have no right to reside on the premises, according to JAX-TV.

The bill also adds criminal penalties for squatters who present officials with faked leases or paperwork claiming they have a right to reside in a building they do not own, trying to sell property they do not own, and making it a felony to damage property in excess of $1,000.

If signed into law, the bill would become effective on July 1 of this year.

The bill comes as a relief to Florida property owner Patti Peeples, who suffered with squatters at a home she owns.

“It gives me a real feeling of positive hope that we still have the ability to discuss challenges in our society and work with our legislatures in a bipartisan way,” Peeples said, according to Fox News.

“Imagine for a moment that you leave from your day of serving the citizens of Florida as a senator and you return to your home,” Peeples said during a state Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing in Feb. “But when you walk in, there are strangers sitting on your sofa, watching your TV, eating your food.”

“You ask who they are and what they are doing, and they tell you that they have rented this house and present you with a lease,” she said.

Peeples added that it took her months to get the law to evict the squatters, but in the meantime the crooks had caused thousands of dollars in damage to her home.

“I’ve had so many emotions,” Peeples told Fox News. “I’ve had just intense anger, I have felt defeated, I felt wronged by the legal system, I felt wronged by the police system.”

The bill also adds protection to those who claim to be wrongfully evicted, allowing them to sue landlords for damages.

Naturally, liberals are accusing lawmakers of discriminating against renters and giving “bad-acting landlords” more power to throw people on the streets, WUW-AM reported.

“We see the language that says it’s limited to folks who are staying in the property against the will of the owner,” said Cynthia Laurent, Florida Rising housing justice campaigner. “But what we know to be true is that a process that’s so expedited won’t even allow a person the time to verify that they’re authorized to be there.”

Some Democrats, including Rep. Mike Gottlieb, worried that the bill would make anyone whose lease expired after a short time into a criminal squatter liable to be tossed out of their home.

It seems likely that Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign the bill, but for sure something needs to be done. Squatting is a growing problem all across the country where willful criminals move into property owned by other people and defiantly occupy the buildings illegally. Some of these criminals can get free lodging for years before slow-acting legal wheels finally toss them out. Then they just move on to the next home and start the clock all over again.

One expert even recently warned that once the millions of illegals that have flooded our country learn that they can spend years living for free in property other people own before being kicked out, the floodgates will be opened and millions of people will lose their property to these criminals.

Regardless, the problem is already a nation-wide menace. As attorney Jim Burling told Fox News in March of last year, “I think it’s a fairly big problem and I think it’s pretty hard to avoid.”

Burling added that property owners can’t call the police for any satisfaction, either. It is impossible for a police officer to make any sort of legal determinations in these cases, so something has to be done above the street cop’s level.

“If somebody is living in a home and saying ‘hey, I signed a lease, I’m paying rent, I have a right to be here,’ whether or not that’s true the police hear that story then they hear a story of somebody who’s not living there and saying ‘this is my place these people don’t belong here,’ the police officer can’t make that legal determination,” he said.

Florida legislators are doing the right thing by addressing this via the law. And its long past time other states do so, as well.

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