Monday, May 20

Squatters ‘claim everything to be theirs,’ real estate agent says

A new bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis is hoping to tackle the issue of squatters in Florida, which will come as welcome relief by victims.

Providing very swift remedies because what the squatters know is even when they’re in the wrong it’s a massive process many times before they can be evicted. And a lot of times the process is very expensive,” DeSantis said.

It’s an issue Port St Lucie real estate agent Josh Bradley said can be a lot to handle.

“They claim everything to be theirs. That’s the biggest thing,” Bradley said. “Anything in the property, around the property they claim to be theirs cause maybe they know maybe they don’t know but once they claim belongings it’s a civil matter.”

Bradley said he’s been in business for 20 years and that squatting isn’t very common but a situation he has had to deal with.

He said he once bought a house from a woman who had inherited property in Fort Pierce.

She sold it to Bradley after she found six people squatting inside.

“She was scared to death of the situation. She didn’t know what to do,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he got law enforcement involved and removed for trespassing.

“Do you ever feel like squatters retaliate when they know they’re about to get kicked out?” WPTV reporter Joel Lopez asked.

“Oh absolutely, in this particular property, they broke multiple windows. We shut the power down. They’d break a window. It’s three units, they’d break a window in another unit and get in. Anything they could unbolt or take they would take it,” Bradley said. “It’s costing a lot of people $1,000, $2,000 a month to hold these houses and let alone if they’re not getting rent and people are destroying it. It’s costing people a lot of money.”

Earlier week Martin County Sheriff’s Office William Snyder spoke about concerns of squatters as people in the Treasure Coast like Bradley said they’ve had to deal with the crime.

“Housing has become a huge concern and burden for those living in our area,” Dan Toback, the creator of the SLC Scanner page on Facebook, said. “Just today I made a post and quite a few fans said they need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Ownership is also tough because of rising taxes, insurance and mortgage rates.”

SLC Scanner page is a resource for people to post and share their experiences about crime, traffic and other instances in the area.

“My feeling on squatters is two part. You have somebody living on your property who is most likely down on their luck and is in a very difficult-like situation,” Toback said. “However, that doesn’t give them an excuse to illegally occupy a hard-working citizen’s house, which they have worked hard to maintain ownership of.”

With the new law, property owners will now be able to request law enforcement to immediately remove a squatter;

If they entered illegally. If squatters have been told to leave and haven’t.

It’s as long as they’re not a tenant involved in a legal dispute.

“Based on my understanding, these new laws will give hard-working citizens and homeowners in our area an easier way to get back control of one of their most valuable assets that they have worked hard to maintain,” Bradley said.

The new law increases penalties.

It’s a second-degree felony if squatters cause more than $1,000 in damage.

And a first-degree felony for knowingly advertising a fake home sale or rental.

“Being able to have them arrested for damages or have that consequence over their head in my opinion is great because they cost me a lot of money,” Bradley said.

Florida’s anti-squatting law is expected to go into effect in July.

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