DeSantis Ends “Free-for-All”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has enacted a new law aimed at addressing the issue of squatting in the state. The legislation, House Bill 621, empowers homeowners with the ability to expedite the removal of squatters from their properties. This law, which DeSantis highlighted for its role in increasing criminal penalties for squatting, is set to take effect on July 1.

Governor DeSantis condemned squatting as a fraudulent activity that infringes on the rights of property owners, stating, “Commandeering a private residence through ‘squatting’ is a scam that violates private property rights.” He contrasted Florida’s stance with that of other states, underscoring Florida’s commitment to ending such practices.

The legislation outlines a process where a homeowner can file a complaint and seek assistance from local sheriff’s departments. “Sheriffs from across the state will be able to provide the adequate resources and support for victims of these crimes and homeowners to preserve their property,” DeSantis mentioned, acknowledging the often cumbersome and costly eviction process currently faced by property owners when dealing with squatters.

Under the new law, should an individual be identified as a squatter, it mandates their removal by the sheriff’s department. DeSantis emphasized the law’s intent to favor law-abiding property owners over those breaking the law, stating, “We don’t want the law to have the thumb on the scale in favor of people that are violating the law. We want the law to have the thumb on the scale in favor of law-abiding property owners.”

This move comes in response to a nationwide increase in squatting incidents, with individuals unlawfully taking possession of homes, a situation that has garnered significant attention in states like New York, known for its relatively lenient squatting laws.

The legislation also coincides with the arrest of Leonel Moreno, a social media influencer and illegal immigrant from Venezuela. Moreno, who advocated for squatting in the U.S. through his popular TikTok account, was arrested following his departure from an ICE program that had previously allowed him to stay in the country despite his illegal entry at Eagle Pass, Texas.