Florida Bill Seeks To Narrow The Squatting Loophole After A Homeowner Suffered 34 Days Of Anxiety & $40,000 In Damages

A bill that Florida lawmakers claim will close a significant gap that has recently enabled squatters to prey on unwary property owners throughout the Sunshine State is currently being considered by lawmakers.

Florida Bill Seeks To Narrow The Squatting Loophole After A Homeowner Suffered 34 Days Of Anxiety & $40,000 In Damages

Republican Florida state representative Kevin Steele, the sponsor of House Bill 621, introduced the legislation in response to Jacksonville resident Patti Peeples, who gained national attention earlier this year after multiple squatters came into her property and approximately $40,000 worth of damages were committed.

She sent a handyman to make repairs ahead of a home inspection after showing the house to an interested buyer 48 hours earlier, which is when Peeples first learned that two female squatters had broken into a rental property she owned.

The squatters displayed a bogus landlord’s contract and insisted they had the right to remain when Peeples tried to ask them to vacate her property.

The 34-day ordeal resulted in $38,000 worth of damage—including broken toilets, shattered windows, cabinets pulled from the wall, a missing washer and dryer, and faeces all over the house—from the squatters’ actions. Additionally, legal expenditures were incurred.

“These squatters know the laws better than most attorneys do, and they use them to their advantage and the police are hamstrung,” Peeple’s told Fox News in April. “They know that this is a civil matter. The police have no right to remove these squatters and treat them as criminals, as individuals that have broken in or trespassed, and they simply throw up their hands and say, ‘You need to go through this civil court system and evict them.’”

According to Steele’s plan, squatters who are unable to provide a notarized lease from a landowner or evidence that they are making rent payments might be immediately removed by police authorities.

“I pursued this bill because I saw the impact that it had on Patti and as well as others in the state,” Steele told News4Jax. “Number two, we’re putting penalties on the individuals if they provide fraudulent documentation. So. they’re gonna have criminal charges on that perspective.”

Peeples claimed that during fights with the squatters, she worried about her safety.

“We were driving by at night, and they threw a brick at my car and damaged it, and we had the window partway down, and they threw human faeces into the car,” Peeples said.

The law, which was introduced in November, would take away the rights of squatters in Florida, which has recently emerged as one of the states most vulnerable to the issue.

Squatters have victimised homeowners across the country this year; many of them have little legal redress, and because of the way the law is written, police agencies are powerless to help.

“I think it’s a fairly big problem and I think it’s pretty hard to avoid,” Jim Burlring, vice president of legal affairs for Pacific Legal Foundation, told Fox News Digital in March.

“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,” Burling said.

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