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  • Richard E. Whitaker

Squatters Be Gone!

Do you own residential investment property? Do you own residential property sitting empty? If so, you may have heard about or been the victim of a certain class of criminals known as "squatters."

If you don't know, a squatter is a person who enters residential real property without the permission of the lawful owner and asserts a right to be there. This most commonly occurs when a house is empty because an investor has not been able to find a tenant to rent it, or is sitting empty for some other reason.

Once a squatter gains entry, it is not uncommon for him to change the locks, turn on the power, forge a lease purporting to give him the status of a tenant, and otherwise treat the place as his own. Owners faced with this situation often face a costly and time consuming process of removing the squatter. Almost without exception, law enforcement will take no action because they consider it to be a "civil matter." This can be extremely frustrating to the owner who now faces the prospect of having to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit to have the squatter removed. It may seem inconceivable to owners that this can happen, but it does and with increasing regularity.

Fortunately, the Florida legislature has acted and passed a new statute designed to put the law back on the side of property owners enabling them to rid themselves of the squatter problem more quickly and inexpensively. Effective July 1, 2024, under Section 82.036, Florida Statutes, a property owner can have a squatter removed from her property by filing a verified complaint with the local Sheriff's department. The complaint must contain certain sworn allegations, but once properly done, it can set the stage for the prompt removal of the squatter without having to file a lawsuit in a court of law with the associated expense and delay.

If you have any questions concerning this new law or any other legal issue, please contact me. I would be happy to help.

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