Governor DeSantis' HB 621: Florida's New Anti-Squatting Law

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On March 27, 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 621, also known as the "Property Rights" bill, into law. This groundbreaking legislation aims to protect property owners by expediting the removal of squatters and imposing harsh penalties on those who illegally occupy properties. The law, set to take effect on July 1, 2024, has been hailed as the toughest anti-squatting measure in the United States.

Key Provisions of the Law

Under the new law, property owners can now file a simple form with their local sheriff's office to request the immediate removal of squatters from their property. To qualify, the property owner must demonstrate that the individual has unlawfully entered and remains on the property, has been directed to leave but has refused, and is not a current or former tenant involved in a legal dispute.

The law also establishes new crimes and enhances penalties related to squatting:

  • Falsely claiming property rights or presenting fake documents is now a 1st degree misdemeanor
  • Squatters who cause over $1,000 in property damage can be charged with a 2nd degree felony
  • Advertising a property for sale or rent without ownership is a 1st degree felony
  • These provisions aim to deter serial squatters and those who teach others how to exploit the system.

Impact on the Short-Term Rental Market

The new law is expected to have a significant impact on Florida's booming short-term rental market. Many STR owners have fallen victim to squatters who take advantage of the legal gray area surrounding short-term occupancy. With the ability to quickly remove unauthorized occupants, STR owners can now protect their investments and avoid costly legal battles.

On the BiggerPockets forums, one STR investor shared their experience: "I had a group of squatters take over my Miami Beach condo last year. It took me three months and $10,000 in legal fees to get them out. This new law is a game-changer for hosts like me."

Public Reaction and Next Steps

The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in the state legislature before landing on Gov. DeSantis' desk. Property owners and real estate investors have praised the measure as a necessary step to protect their rights. On Twitter, the Florida Realtors Association called it a "huge win for property owners and the rule of law."

However, some advocates worry that the law could lead to wrongful evictions and criminalize the homeless. One Reddit user expressed concern: "While I support cracking down on scammers, I hope this doesn't end up hurting vulnerable people who are just trying to find a place to sleep."

As the July 1 effective date approaches, Florida law enforcement agencies are preparing to implement the new procedures. Sheriff's offices across the state are developing forms and training deputies on how to handle squatter removal requests.

Gov. DeSantis has made it clear that Florida will not tolerate squatters, declaring that the state has "put an end to the squatters scam" while other states "side with the squatters." With this bold new law, Florida has set a precedent that other states may soon follow as the nation grapples with the growing problem of squatting.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.