DeSantis Signs Bill to Combat Squatting in Orlando

( – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed another bold piece of legislation last week that would put more power into the hands of landlords to evict squatters from their properties more quickly and easily.

On Wednesday, March 27th, DeSantis announced in Orlando that he would sign a new bill to benefit landlords and stop squatters from taking advantage of vacant properties. On stage, in front of the Florida governor, as he made the announcement, there was a sign reading, “Ending the squatters scam.”

House Bill 621 will specifically provide an avenue for homeowners to legally and quickly remove squatters, which is often an expensive and lengthy process. The bill would also increase penalties on those who settle in properties without authorization from the owner or refuse to leave after the end or breaking of a lease.

Besides staying beyond the completion of a lease or after breaking a lease agreement, some squatters settle in empty or abandoned houses, often while owners go on vacation or in vacant houses waiting to go on the market, taking advantage of laws that prevent their immediate ejection. Such individuals often trash the property and, in the case of buildings with shared utilities, will run up utility costs at the expense of landlords.

Florida State Attorney Andrew Bain noted how many of these squatters will move into the property and turn it into “a drug den, trap house, or brothel.”

Justin Mielcarek, a man who shared his testimony with a group of attendees of the governor’s conference on the bill, said that a house across the street from his was transformed “into a drug and prostitution house.”

Mielcarek added that law enforcement’s hands “were tied” because their residence in the house was a civil matter and had to be settled through the court system. The battle dragged on for five months, and residents were told by law enforcement to “leave the squatters alone” as they continued engaging in criminal activity.

DeSantis said the law, which takes effect on July 1st, will end “the squatter scam once and for all.” He warned those who “commandeer somebody’s private property” that they can no longer “expect to get away with it.”

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